By Gary Nager
On the heels of an outstanding final production for 2012, the New Tampa Players (NTP) community theatre troupe, which has been keeping great local theatre alive in our area for more than a decade, is proud to announce its 2013 schedule.
The Players will again produce four shows and will also offer two big fund raisers for 2013. The shows on the agenda are “Meet the American Girls,” which will debut in the spring after open auditions later this month (see below), “The Sound of Music” (summer), “Jekyll & Hyde” (fall) and “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (winter).
The 2013 fund-raising events will be a fun, proze-filled Casino Night at Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club on Saturday, February 9, and the always-popular “Broadway Comes To Tampa” on Saturday, May 11.
Considering that I was 13 years old when I saw the great Ben Vereen create his Tony Award-winning role of the “Leading Player” in the original Tony Award-nominated Broadway production of “Pippin,” the only things I really remembered from it were its sexiness, Vereen’s amazing performance and a few of the show’s catchy songs.
So, I didn’t know what to expect when I settled in to watch the New Tampa Players (NTP) production of “Pippin” at the University Area Community Center theater on N. 22nd St. the weekend of November 17.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised that the NTP show retained the tongue-in-cheek, bawdy humor and impressive vocals of the original and although the dancing may not have been up to Broadway standards, NTP president and “Pippin” director Doug Wall did an outstanding job of bringing this unique show to life.
“Pippin” is a play within a play, where the “Leading Player” is the director of an acting troupe putting on a show about the lead character, who was the real-life son of King Charlemagne, who was the king of France from the year 768 A.D.-814 A.D.
But, “Pippin” is anything but an old show about a long-since dead king and his son. It’s a play-within-a-play about a young man who is trying to find his “Corner of the Sky” (probably the show’s most memorable song and sung very nicely by recent college graduate Jarrett W. Koski, in the title role). This medeival acting troupe is being directed by a very-much-in-control “Leading Player,” performed admirably by the talented Clay Christopher, who studied under Ben Vereen and also directed performances of “Pippin” at New Tampa’s Paul R. Wharton High earlier this year.
“Pippin” also is about love and lust, about war, revolution and even patricide. In addition to the two leading roles, NTP veterans Craig Hartsfield (as King Charles) and his wife Janine (as Pippin’s grandma Berthe) deliver some of the show’s most memorable lines and vocal performances (he in “War is a Science” and she in the catchy and kitschy “No Time at All.”). Perhaps the best musical performances, however, were by Melanie Marie Bierweiler, who played Pippin’s love interest, the widow Catherine, in “There He Was” and “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man.”
All in all, a great show and lots of bawdy fun…and with many more fun NTP performances to come in 2013.
For information about auditions for “Meet the American Girls” on December 16-17, “Broadway Comes to Tampa” or any NTP production, call 781-1171 or visit NewTampa Players.org.