After a little over three weeks of intense rehearsals, the Weekend Theater’s production of Pippin is underway with performances and a plot that are both entertaining and enlightening. I must admit, I’m a little biased, because I’ve been a part of the phenomenal team of cast and crew who have labored day and night to bring this musical to life.
My long journey from auditions, to practices, and even to the bows during curtain call on opening night has been an awesome experience that I shall always treasure.
The last time I performed in a play was about 12 years ago, during my sophomore year at Oxon Hill High School in Maryland. I was so young, nervous, and excited about being cast as the Leading Player in my school’s production of Pippin. Yes, as fate would have it, the musical Pippin was the last play I was ever a part of.
I didn’t want to let down my high school drama teacher or the rest of the cast, so I spent countless hours learning my lines in the script, studying songs, memorizing dance steps, and watching a video of the play so I could observe Ben Vereen’s masterful performance, as the character I was slated to play. Vereen won a Tony Award for Best Actor in 1973 for his portrayal of the Leading Player in Pippin.
My school’s production of Pippin went well, but I never truly became the character. I tried my best to act and sing with all my heart in every performance, but most of the time I was just a young guy trying to do his best Ben Vereen impression. For an adolescent whose voice was still changing, sometimes my “Vereen” kind of worked and other nights it fell flat. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of that time, because of the sheer passion and excitement that I felt from performing on stage for a live audience. The play helped me grow as a person and I became more outgoing at school.
I thought my experience with Pippin ended in the 10th grade, but I had no idea that my love affair with this musical would be ongoing endeavor. As a news reporter at KUAR, I interviewed Ben Vereen in 2008 for an event he was doing in Little Rock. I was ecstatic about having the chance to chat with the man I tried to emulate in high school. He was so gracious and we even sang some of the songs from Pippin.
In 2010, I created a list of thirty goals I wanted to accomplish before my 30th birthday and I made sure to include acting in another play on that list. A few months after drafting the list, I was humming a tune and singing at the radio station when two coworkers convinced me to audition for some upcoming plays at the Weekend Theater. Call it serendipity, or pure luck, but one of the plays was my beloved Pippin. I auditioned and ultimately got the part of the Leading Player, but there was one hitch, I couldn’t remember any of the dialogue and had to relearn all of the songs.
Tackling a musical while working at KUAR and taking PhD courses at the UCA is no easy task, but I must admit it has been a labor of love. With extraordinary guidance and expertise from Director John Thompson and Musical Director Jeannie Cross, I finally learned how to pour my own yearning, swagger, and emotions into the Leading Player role. They liberated me from that awesome shadow of Ben Vereen so that I could put my own personal stamp on the character, something I was unable to do in high school.
The cast, crew, and choreographers were all seasoned professionals. Their support, patience, ideas, and genuine goodwill helped me shed certain fears and once again embrace the beauty of performing on a stage.
There are six performances left for the Weekend Theater’s production of Pippin. The play is filled with magic, music, great acting, and good-natured theatrical fun. Every night we do a show, I am in awe of the diverse talents displayed by my fellow cast members. They inspire me and make me want to continue acting. I’m no Ben Vereen, but I’m one hell of a Malcolm Glover.
Final Show Dates: October 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23 - On Fridays and Saturdays, curtain times are at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday showings curtain times are at 2:30 p.m.
Promotional Video: The Weekend Theater's Pippin