UNCW presents the cross departmental collaboration of ‘Pippin’

Trey K. Morehouse | Staff Writer

The UNCW Department of Theatre and the Department of Music have set their sights high in producing the musical “Pippin.” The first musical produced at UNCW in four years (the last being “A Year with Frog and Toad”) and the first musical ever to be produced in the new Cultural Arts Building, “Pippin” will likely prove to be a fun and enjoyable spectacle. Directing the project is Frank Trimble, interim chair of the Department of Theatre.

“The Department of Theatre has an impressive history of producing musicals dating back to Straw Hat Summer Theatre (Kenan Auditorium) in the 1970’s and 1980’s under the direction of founding Theatre faculty member Doug Swink,” said Trimble. “From 1989 to 1993, the department again staged musicals as part of Summer Artsfest.”

“Pippin” anachronistically and rather whimsically depicts the life of the real-life medieval figure Pippin, who was the son of Charlemagne. The plot is blissfully historically inaccurate. A coming of age tale, “Pippin” lightheartedly chronicles the hero’s quest to find happiness and fulfillment. The events of the play are told by, and in some way controlled by, a character known as the Leading Player and his followers, the Band of Players. These players not only tell the story, but also urge and tempt Pippin to greater and stranger acts.

“The Leading Player and his obedient minions present the text with maximum physical and aural spectacle to sell Pippin and the audience a bill of goods,” said Trimble.  

First produced on Broadway in 1971, the music and lyrics for Pippin were written by Stephen Schwartz with the book by Roger O. Hirson.. The show was a hit at its Broadway premiere and has been successfully produced by professional and non-professional theatre companies ever since. Due to the show’s lighthearted and fun tone, it has had some success being performed by or for the high school age group. However, this is not evidence of a lack of maturity or depth.

Theatre Scholar Scott Millar wrote in his 1996 book “From Assassins to Westside Story,” ” Pippin is a largely under-appreciated musical with a great deal more substance to it than many people realize.”

Trimble finds meaning in the show by comparing it to the famous lines by the Rolling Stones, ” You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.” Trimble is referring to the journey Pippin takes in order to find meaning. Along the way he stumbles and falls, but ultimately the audience can hope that he finds the means for happiness.

With a large cast of about 22 student actors and cross departmental production team, Pippin should prove to be quite the spectacular theatrical experience. Music direction is being handled by music professors Nancy King, Lynn O’Connell & Bob Russell. The show is choreographed by theatre faculty Nancy Carson and Frank Trimble. When asked whether or not musicals at UNCW will become a regular event, Trimble said, “That will be the topic of conversation once the shows closes. Stay tuned.”

Pippin will be performed in the Cultural Arts Building on the Mainstage and will play Nov. 4-7 and Nov. 11-14; Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and children, $10 for UNCW employees, UNCW alumni and seniors, and $12 for the general public. Tickets are available in advance through the Kenan Auditorium Box Office and through the CAB box office 90 minutes before the performance.