The show—or at least, the dress rehearsal—seems to me like chaos. The good kind of chaos, though. The kind where there’s so much going around that I don’t even know where to begin to look. It’s the kind of chaos definitive of this weekend: Spring Fling. And though Fling itself is now a one–day event on Saturday, festivities have already begun. And what better way to nap and rally through the good chaos of a weekend than by hitting up a midnight showing of an award–winning musical? The show I’m talking about is, of course, Pippin. This weekend, Quadramics Theater Co. “Q” is bringing back its annual midnight show, this time with its rendition of the 2013 Broadway revival of the 1972 musical.
Set in the medieval times under the Roman Empire, the show follows Pippin, a young, angsty prince on his search for meaning, his story narrated by a mysterious performance troupe. On the left of the stage is a full orchestra playing what sounds to me like carnival music. Actors and actresses and dancers and singers (they do it all) are performing center stage. The Leading Player, the character who leads the troupe, says—no, sings—no, uses her angelic voice to form the words—“Glory,” scaling up and down the octaves.
As the lights dim, the oboe begins to tune, joined in by the rest of the orchestra. The Leading Player comes out. “Join us,” she sings. It’s an interactive show and not one that confines its interactions to the stage. Glued to my seat, I join in and am taken on a roller coaster of emotions. I smile. I laugh. I hurt. I’m normally not a theater person, but Pippin is different. It’s different in that it’s chaotically meaningful; there’s so many emotions to feel, so many things to see, and so much talent to follow, but it all comes together to make sense.
The second most impressive part of all this is that it’s entirely student–run. From the lively, upbeat music to the gray cobblestone set to the blue and yellow corset, all of it was designed by students.
To prepare for this show, all those involved—the actors/actresses, the tech and sound, and the designers—barely attend Fling themselves. But that’s not to say there’s no fun in it for them; there’s a reason they have a show at midnight Fling weekend. That one is the most fun. “Some go a little crazier. Last semester, the leads just started making out. We let them have fun with it!” says Sabina Lowitt (C ’20), producer of the show.
That’s not to say the fun of the show takes anything away from the meaning. Pippin is largely about a character finding his fulfillment, whether that means happiness or success. As I was watching it, it fed into my own constant stream of existential and identity crises. It’s a problem that many of us here at Penn struggle with. In choosing the musical, the chair of Q and director of Pippin, Shailly Pandey (C ’18), explains, “I want to go to medical school, and I just found myself putting unreasonable amounts of pressure on myself. So I was like, ‘Hey, maybe I should take a second to enjoy myself.’ And this show captures that.” But the heavy message is entangled with the accompanying song and dance, which add a much lighter mood to the show.
The show is at once beautiful and funny. If anything, let this be your one break during this weekend of debauchery.
Pippin opens Thursday at the Iron Gate Theater at 8:30 p.m. and will also show Friday at 6:30 p.m. and 11:59 p.m., and Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are sold here and on Locust.