Salisbury Community Players will stage 'Pippin' this weekend

By Susan Parker
Posted 11/6/23

 “Pippin,” a 1972 musical set in France during the Middle Ages, is the most recent offering by the Community Players of Salisbury. “Pippin,” with music and lyrics by …

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Salisbury Community Players will stage 'Pippin' this weekend

Posted

 “Pippin,” a 1972 musical set in France during the Middle Ages, is the most recent offering by the Community Players of Salisbury. “Pippin,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, ran on Broadway for about five years, with 1,944 performances. Based loosely on King Charlemagne (aka Charles the Great or Charles I), who eventually became the first emperor of what was later called the Holy Roman Empire, and his oldest son, the theme is one many people can relate to – the everlasting search for fulfillment and meaning in life.

Although loosely based on historical characters, this story is purposefully not historically accurate; it is a work of fiction.

It is particularly meaningful for Pete Cuesta, director.

“This has really been a 40-year journey for me,” said Cuesta, adding that when he was in high school, this was his first performance on stage.

“I played the role of Pippin,” he said. The script, he said, has evolved over the years. Cuesta described at one point writing a note to the playwright requesting permission to restore a specific line to its original wording. Much to his surprise, the playwright wrote back.

“He gave me permission to make the change,” said Cuesta. “I never expected that.”

The show tells the story of a traveling troupe of actors, or players. Leading Player (portrayed by Raquel “Rocky” Ndirangu follows Pippin’s journey as searches for meaning and fulfillment, guiding him throughout the performance.

“I narrate, interact with the audience, and guide Pippin as he looks for a sense of fulfillment,” said Ndirangu. “I am guiding him through the process.”

Ndirangu’s role requires some endurance, as the Leading Player character is on stage throughout most of the performance.

“I’m always looking for a chance to catch my breath,” she said. She admires her character.

“She’s very sassy,” Ndirangu said, laughing, “and that comes easily for me. It may sound crazy, but being Leading Player has given me a sense of confidence. She’s sassy, feisty and bold.”

Mark Tyler plays the role of Charlemagne.

“The biggest surprise about Charlemagne is his vulnerability,” said Tyler. “You would think that the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire would be aware of threats against him. As you will see in the show, that’s not always the case.”

In the musical, Pippin is Charlemagne’s first son, and first in line to the throne. His father is a demanding parent, fueling Pippin’s search for meaning and fulfillment. Throughout this search, he is guided throughout by Leading Player, who encourages him to try whatever interests him. Eventually he meets a young widow, Catherine, now a single mother to her son, Theo, and who needs help running her large estate. Catherine becomes his love interest.

“Catherine has been married, widowed, and is now a single mother,” said Emma Laird, who plays the role of Catherine. “I am none of those things. The biggest challenge for me was figuring out how to do justice to these very real experiences that I do not know myself.”

“Pippin has the propensity to keep trying and trying,” said Kyle Hayes, who plays Pippin. “When one thing fails, he tries another. I think that's something we can all aspire to do.”

Pippin has a younger half-brother in the show, Lewis, who is played by Konnor Stever.

“It surprised me how easily I was able to get into this character,” said Stever. “who is the opposite of who I am in real life.” But the character Lewis and the young actor do share one characteristic that Stever can relate to naturally.

“Lewis has a close relationship with his mother,” said Stever, “and so do I.” Lewis – as the younger brother to Pippin – is second in line to the throne.

The cast of 24 actors spanning a wide range of ages, backgrounds and experience, has formed a real sense of community. In addition to the cast, Cuesta is assisted by Jeffrey Baer, musical director; Katie Oakley, choreographer; Dory Hayman, musical director, vocal coach and assistant director; Kate Adkins, stage manager; Terry Bell, costume design; Sharon Benchoff, lighting design; Judy Hearn, set decoration and scenic artist; Cas Dasher, props master; and Madison, makeup design and special effects. Cuesta’s wife, Kimberly is a cast member.

“There’s lots of music, war, politics and lust in Pippin’s search,” said Cuesta. “But his life is not fulfilling until he meets Catherine. The show is also filled with dancing, singing, talented actors and beautiful faces.”

“Don't give up with what you're searching for,” said Hayes, “sometimes what you're looking for is closer than you think.”

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