March 7, 2017
‘Pippin’: Dance, drama, music team for UW Musical Theater Program’s third production, March 8-19
Its music and lyrics were written by Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell,” “Wicked”), and its script by Roger O. Hirson. The original production, directed by Bob Fosse, premiered on Oct. 23, 1972, and ran for 1,944 performances, making it Broadway’s 33rd-longest-running show.
The UW’s production is being directed by Wilson Mendieta, a lecturer in the UW Dance Program who also directs the Musical Theater Program. Steven Sofia, an artist in residence with the dance program, did the choreography and Seattle-based performer and teacher Jordyn Meeker is musical director.
The show runs March 8 – 19 in the Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse Theater. Mendieta answered a few questions about the production and the program.
Why did you choose “Pippin”?
W.M.: Mainly because it reinforces pedagogical objectives of the Musical Theater Program. The themes found in the material are incredibly relevant. This gives us the opportunity to address contemporary social issues through the lens of this incredible art form.
How do the UW schools of drama and music and the dance program cooperate for such shows?
W.M.: Many of the people that help this production happen are representatives of each of the three collaborating units. The conductor is an alum from music, the choreographer is a faculty member from dance and the designers are MFA candidates in drama. The same applies to the cast and crew. Also, what is great about this collaborative process is that it serves as an opportunity for undeclared majors to discover their passions. One of the students in the orchestra is now considering a degree in music and several cast members are hoping to declare a musical theater major.
“Pippin” was on Broadway in the early 1970s. Will this be done in a ’70s style, as a sort of “period piece”?
W.M.: The original production took place in 1972, but the story was not set in the 1970s, per se. The script is more fluid. Our concept takes advantage of this fluidity and plays with time and period in a way to make the material relevant to our audiences. Ultimately, we are presenting it in a “burlesque” style.
Can you tell a bit more about the “burlesque” style? It’s different from the old stereotype of bawdy acts and bad comics, isn’t it?
W.M.: We tend to associate burlesque with striptease or “girlie shows” but that is not necessarily its original use. American burlesque is a descendant of European burlesque, and its intent was to mock “high art.” However in the late 1800s, we begin to see current events appear in burlesque’s parodies. It was an exciting time for the American musical theatre art form, as the merging of burlesque, minstrelsy and variety acts help to shape what we know as vaudeville — which has had great influence on musical theatre. The score and script of Pippin resides among many of these styles, so we added current events to the mixture for this production.
The UW Musical Theater Program is now in its third year. How’s it going?
W.M.: The program is nearing the end of its pilot period and we are now focused on learning what are our options for the future. To help us with that, the College of Arts & Sciences is conducting an internal program review to assess the last few years, and help us put forth a strategic plan in action for the foreseeable future. It is an exciting time!
- Tickets to “Pippin” are $18-$20 and available online or through ArtsUW, 206-543-4880 or email@example.com.