“Pippin”; Feb. 16 -25th
Theatre Bringing Out the Best in Community
By Sharon Turano
Cattaraugus County Living Arts Association’s upcoming production of “Pippin” will not only showcase local talent, acrobatics, magic, song and dance, but those planning the show say it will bring much more to the city.
“If you loved “Wicked,” you’ll love “Pippin,” said Todd Wagner, artistic director for “Pippin.” He said Steven Schwartz, composer of “Pippin,” also wrote shows such as “Wicked” and Godspell.”
Wagner said it is a show about a young man looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places. Lara Larsson, assistant music director and vocal coach for the show, described the production. Written in the 1960s, she said, Schwartz tried to challenge the American dream and its ideals when composing the production. Based upon scripture, she said, worldly pleasures such as power, wealth and more are pit against real joy that can come from family. Those are the issues Pippin faces on his journey to becoming a man. The question posed, she said, remains relevant today. Larsson said the same question is posed in the Bible when King Solomon searches for meaning. The production adds music, dance and more to entice audiences to CCLAA’s version of the story.
While theatergoers enjoy the acrobats and more that accompany Pippin’s journey, those working on the show are working on some magic of their own.
“It shows the community they can come together to do something extraordinary,” Larsson said about those involved with the production, with Wagner agreeing.
“The younger generation needs to see what they can do”, he said, adding the CCLAA works to help the cast that ranges from 16 to 70 years old realize being extraordinary is within their reach. For instance, Choreographer Rudy Andalora said, pushing cast members to maximize their potential is part of productions at the Ray Evans Seneca Theater, home to the CCLAA.
“It’s a chance to watch students grow,” he said about the approximate 20 cast members. It’s a chance for the audience too, said Wagner. He said the theater offers a chance for people to escape the issues of the day, while still finding a “human connectedness.” That is mirrored by the cast, said Larsson. She said all of the cast members have different political, theological differences. Despite that, they all put those differences aside to “do something beautiful” at the theater.
Not only does CCLAA and its cast make art that should be celebrated said Larsson, but, it celebrates that community members can do something amazing. The theater, she added, can do something amazing for the community also. For instance, theater is an economic boost to a community, adding it is “a ripple in the pond,” not only adding confidence for its actors, but also bringing money into the city. In Western New York, she said, $352.1 million can be attributed to the arts, according to the Economic Prosperity V Report conducted by the Americans for the Arts (WNY). The report suggests 10,160 full-time jobs were created in Western New York due to arts activity.
“I’d like to see theater become a bigger staple,” said Wagner about what could happen in Salamanca. He said concerts, workshops, seminars and more could be offered, with Larsson adding community support is needed to make that happen. Andalora hopes to see that support with full audiences for “Pippin,” which, he said, brings professional-grade theater to Salamanca.
“There’s no other “Pippin like this one in the area,” he said. Those wanting to see the CCLAA’s production of “Pippin,” can do so at 7pm Feb. 16, 17, 23, 24 and at 2pm Feb. 18 and 25. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, 10 Main St., Salamanca, or showclix.com/RayEvans. Once complete, CCLAA will begin work on “Swingtime Canteen,” to be performed in May and “Beauty and the Beast,” in August.