The Concord Academy Performing Arts Department wowed audiences with whimsical performances of Pippin on February 24 and 25. Directed by theater teacher Megan Schy Gleeson, students used music, movement, and even magic to tell a spectacular coming-of-age story. 

The medieval tale follows the young prince Pippin (Liam O’Brien ’23) on his quest to find his “Corner of the Sky.” He enlists the aid of his powerful father, King Charles (Liam Salerno ’23), his alluring stepmother Fastrada (Marisa Beard ’24), and his battle-ready brother Lewis (Brennan Biemann ’24) on his quest to lead a meaningful life through pursuits of war, glory, and passion.

“Pippin is a big Broadaway musical with lots of gorgeous singing and amazing dancing,” Schy Gleeson says, “but ever since it debuted in 1972 the structure of the piece has not been that of a traditional musical.” 

The performance format lets audiences see behind the curtain and inside the minds of the characters. Actors change costumes on stage, assume multiple roles, and address the audience directly—breaking the fourth wall. Throughout the story a performance troupe, the Players, narrates Pippin’s inner doubts. Schy Gleeson reflects: “We all have those internalized voices that tell us we’re not good enough. By confronting the thoughts within one’s mind, we are surrendering the need to be perfect.” 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pippin, and the musical is as relevant today as when it debuted. CA’s production used anachronistic props such as cell phones to blur the line between 780 A.D. and the fast-paced and social media-saturated world we live in today. 

Magic designer Evan Northrup staged mystical illusions, including spinning plates and disappearing objects. Gleeson notes, “Evan and I worked with the students in planning ‘choreography’ for what needed to happen to set up each illusion. What I think was really fun for the students was when Evan came in to do a magic workshop with the actors and tech crew folks, as an introduction to magic for the theater.” 

The energetic performance was perfectly punctuated with choreography by dance program co-directors Rika Okamoto and Alexander Brady, which included jazz footwork, acrobatics, and ribbon twirling. Soaring pop-rock melodies, music directed by Performing Arts Department Head Michael Bennett, underscored the action. 

In a stand-out musical number, “No Time at All,” Pippin’s grandmother Berthe (Aisha Aina Tasso ’23) encourages him to seize the day and embrace his life with all its imperfections. After a series of trials and tribulations, Pippin is ultimately enlightened and transformed by this advice. He rejects his powerful station to embrace a simple, joyful, and family-focused path. 

The piece asks us to consider “are we truly taking time for being with the ones we love,” Schy Gleeson says. “Are we using the time we have on this planet well?” 

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