SPX Waterdale Players have “some magic to do” this month when they present Stephen Schwartz’s pop musical PIPPIN!
The story introduces us to Pippin, the eldest son of King Charlemagne of the Franks. Pippin is the well-educated crowned prince, but he believes that there is more to life than warfare and longs for a more fulfilling life. With the help and direction of the Leading Player and a troupe of ambitious assistants, Pippin sets off on an entertaining journey filled with violence, betrayal, tragedy and love in order to find ultimate happiness.
Being a relatively young theatre company, SPX Waterdale Players was founded in 2004 through the St. Pius X Parish and ex-students of St. Pius X Primary School. This community-based youth theatre group strives to “provide opportunities for Melbourne youth to develop their skills and further their involvement in all aspects of theatre performance and production in a supportive and professional environment”. Co-Musical Director Daniele Buatti explains why PIPPIN was the perfect choice for Waterdale:
“PIPPIN presents to us a young man who’s trying to find his meaning in life. This is a reflection of what every human being is trying to achieve. SPX Waterdale Players’ company objectives believe in helping the youth of today find themselves in life whether it’s by making new friends, expanding their skill base or both!”
Pictures from the show seem to indicate that Director Shane Sanfilippo and team have modernised the story. In reality, they have endeavoured to portray it in a simplified, timeless form. Rather than using costuming and props from one specific time period, they opted to use a mixture of themes and specific colour schemes to differentiate between the players and the characters. “Each player has had their own journey just like Pippin to enter the world of the Leading Player. Therefore each costume is different and relates to each players story. Some players have only recently joined the Leading Player and some have been with him for years, which will hopefully achieving a timeless look when they are all together,” explains Co-Choreographer Emma Kiely.
The choreography team took their inspiration from the great Bob Fosse. “In researching this iconic choreographer it was evident what made his chorey far superior to others. His choreography told a story, it takes people on a journey, and this is what I envisaged for Waterdale’s PIPPIN,” says Assistant Director/Co-Choreographer Luis Rivera.
It was important to the music team that they make sure every cast member knew what they were singing about at all times and why. “Musical theatre is more about just being on stage and singing. It’s about knowing where your character is coming from and why one is forced to sing their thoughts when no-one is listening to what they’re saying,” says Daniele Buatti. Melissa Karakaltsas elaborates on her role in the music team:
“I see it as my job to recreate the intentions of the composer to the best of my ability. Listening to the Original Cast Recording and the DVD of the 1980’s production gave great insight into what Stephen Schwartz intended. After interpreting these directions, I considered what Shane wanted as director and considered what ideas and themes he wanted to portray in different sections of the musical.”
Not all of those involved in Waterdale’s PIPPIN!” choose to refer to previous cast recordings for inspiration. “I don’t like listening to cast recordings or watching other performances of the show so I can hopefully create my own unique interpretation of the role. The first performers of the role had no one to show them the way; they had to rely on the script and music to give them insight into the role. I try to do the same,” says Kyahl Anderson (Pippin).
When asked what the biggest challenge faced in her role, Jess Kaplonyi (Catherine) said, “I’ve never done acting outside an acting class. This is my first lead role in an amateur theatre show. Being part of such an experienced group of leads, the pressure was on from the start.” She also discussed the role of the ensemble in the show:
“The ensemble get to do a lot of fun character work in the scene changes and get to explore their own take on the Fosse style. The dancing for the ensemble is pretty full on, much more than I’ve ever done as an ensemble member myself. They have a lot to do throughout the show and everyone gets their moment to shine.”
All of the cast members interviewed agreed that the friendships formed in this cast have helped make the experience a great one. Kathleen Amarant (Fastrada) says, “Our rehearsals don’t end at the end of rehearsal. Most days we all go out somewhere for nibbles, a de-brief and chats about the show. The cast have become close as an ensemble but also the leads have become united. It has been really important to our on stage chemistry as we are able to feel safe and secure when performing together because of the trust has formed between us.”
PIPPIN! is showing for only six performances from Friday, 5th March at the Rivergum Theatre (Parade College – 1436 Plenty Road, Bundoora). Adult’s tickets cost just $22 and children’s tickets cost $18. Bookings can be made through the SPX Waterdale Players’ website at www.waterdaleplayers.com/pippin. With the amount of enthusiasm and passion displayed by the cast and crew indicates anything about the quality of the production, it’s set to be a great one!