By Katy Shenk
Elm Staff Writer
“Rivers belong where they can ramble, eagles belong where they can fly,” sang the 20-member cast of “Pippin” to a sold-out Hotchkiss Recital hall on Feb. 22 and 23.
The musical “Pippin” was written by Roger O. Hirson with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz in 1972. It tells the story of Pippin, son of Charlemagne and heir to the Frankish throne, in his search for meaning and fulfillment in life.
Pippin’s journey takes him from the Visigoth battlefield, to the castle of his licentious grandmother, to the home of a widow and her son, where he finally discovers that “extraordinary” moments are spectacular in their own way.
Director Ernie Green, also director of the Washington College chorus, described his love for “Pippin” and his decision to direct it here at WC in an interview with the Chestertown Spy on Feb. 17.
“I love ‘Pippin.’ I love the story, I love the music,” Green said. He has both conducted and directed several productions of the show throughout his career.
Green said that last year a group of students in the chorus expressed a desire to become involved in musical theatre.
“I wanted something where the music was going to be something accessible. It wasn’t going to require big, classically trained voices. ‘Pippin’ I knew I could make work with anywhere between 10 and 110 [cast members],” Green said.
“Pippin” is WC’s first musical that is not a senior thesis production, and was directed through the music department.
“It was somewhat stressful since the concept was so new to the music department. It was basically trial and error,” junior Anna Mayes, student director, said. “But it really brought us closer together and we have built a bond that will last forever.”
Freshman Will Rotsch, who starred as Pippin, and sophomore Emily Kreider, choreographer and Fastrada in the Thursday performance, both commented on the comical nature but meaningful takeaways of the production itself.
“The messages of this show are deep, even though the story itself is simple. Every part of the show is a commentary on a different aspect of life, and it’s really powerful once you find it,” Rotsch said.
“It’s a show of magic and mischief, and allows a lot of room for creative interpretation and production. The show’s story is fun and exciting, while also having a darker and more serious undertone,” Kreider said.
The cast returned to campus a week early from winter break and worked collaboratively on all aspects of the show, including costume, set design, and choreography.
While managing costumes, hair, and makeup, sophomore Jillian Horaneck had the opportunity to exercise her own creative vision.
“I remember talking to Ernie about what direction to go for the costumes and he told me it was up to me and whatever I decided he would love. So, I was able to really dive into the process, with little guidance and with a little help from my friends,” she said.
The long hours spent together both on and off the stage allowed the small cast to form strong relationships.
“I think my favorite part of the show would be the bond the cast made. I haven’t gone a day without seeing and talking with them. We are quite literally a family,” Horaneck said.
Kreider said she loved the moments in which her and her cast mates could work together on getting ready for the show, “from late nights of painting banners and sewing costume pieces to afternoons spent working on dance numbers.”
In his directors note, Green said that the students took Pippin in a different direction than the one he had planned in mid-January. “I think [it] created a much richer and layered show than it would have been otherwise.”
“I am so excited and grateful to be able to be Pippin and to have such a large role as a freshman,” Rotsch said. “I think this is the beginning of a strong musical theatre culture here at WC.