Even amidst the excitement of the holiday season and winter break, students of California School of the Arts-San Gabriel Valley (CSArts-SGV) are eager to return for the inaugural performance of the all-school musical “Pippin.” With the show opening in just a few weeks, students and teachers alike count down the days in anticipation, excited to show off their hard work.
A reproduction of the 1972 Broadway classic, “Pippin” explores some serious themes while still maintaining a sense of humor, taking the audience on a journey of surprises, comedy, adventure and self-discovery. Since October, students have been working together to bring this production to life, working with their teachers to develop their characters into three-dimensional humans that others can see themselves in, choreographing sequences full of personality and energy, creating an atmosphere and mood in the songs.
“I wanted something with a bit of flare and energy, but that also had an undercurrent of substance and relevance,” co-director Jay Wallace, chair of theatre said. “The show allows us to craft our own unique impression and perspective of the universal story of the search for one’s voice and purpose in life. We really wanted to create a world that binds relevance, energy and entertainment to take the audience on a journey.”
Featuring middle school and high school students from musical theatre, acting, vocal arts, dance and integrated arts, CSArts-SGV’s performance of “Pippin” uses a steampunk aesthetic to tell the story of a young prince, Pippin (Sam Morelos), striving to find his place in the world and a meaning to his life.
First introduced to the students by its original creators, Tim Powers and James Blaylock, the steampunk genre offers artistic opportunities for students in every conservatory to contribute their talents.
The Visual Arts Conservatory is participating in a steampunk art exhibit in the lobby, steampunk letters are featured in the program by Creative Writing Conservatory students and the Production & Design Conservatory serves alongside professionals to develop their craft through practical experience.
With all of the conservatories working together to bring this production to life, all students have the opportunity to fully understand and experience what it means to “grow together as artists and individuals,” reflecting the Musical Theater Conservatory’s mission. In this collaborative process, students are also challenged to grow, both as leaders and performers, and develop an appreciation for professionalism and risk-taking.
Alongside a CSArts-SGV team of talented teachers and directors from across all conservatories, students also had the opportunity to perform for and receive insight from Erik Altemus, an original cast member of the 2013 Tony-Award winning Broadway revival of “Pippin.”
“The most exciting part of this was coming back with this new perspective,” Altemus said. “I went to OCSA so I can really understand where these students are and can relate so much. ‘Pippin’ is a really interesting show and the reason it’s done so often is because there are so many different interpretations and so many different ways you can do it, so I’m excited to see what this version is. When creating a Broadway show, you really get the opportunity, especially when you’re doing a revival, to really delve into the text and into the music and kind of reimagine things and since ‘Pippin’ already lends itself to being really imaginative, allowing so much creative freedom to whoever is doing it, and I’m just excited to see it with fresh eyes again, help answer any questions students might have, and inspire them.”
With so many different ways “Pippin” could be interpreted and so many different surprises the production has to offer, cast members are equally excited to reveal their unique take on the production.
“I’m really excited for the audience to see the different perspectives in ‘Pippin’ through the different music and how it goes from dramatic to whimsical,” junior cast member Elliot Moore said.
Eighth grader Jasmine Curry agrees, adding, “’Pippin’ really helped me build up my acting skills to develop my characters.”
Curry said she’s most excited to share everything she’s learned with the audience.
“I hope the audience takes away the message that you shouldn’t let others tell you what your dreams are and… to find their dreams within themselves,” Leading Player Christian Dorey said. “This production has been an amazing experience because it pushed me to my limits…and I want them to [see] the amount of talent… [reflected] in the work we put in.”
“Pippin” will run from January 11-13 at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center, 88 Campus Dr., Arcadia, CA 91007. Tickets can be purchased at http://sgv.csarts.net/boxoffice. Come join us on a journey of comedy, adventure, and discovery.