'Corner of the Sky' - the classic Broadway musical Pippin comes to J'lem

"You’re never really sure what’s real and what isn’t and whether the actors are acting or just being themselves."

Pippin the Musical in Jerusalem - Starcatcher's 2018 Production (YouTube/Starcatcher Theater)
The Starcatcher team is bringing Pippin to the stage for the first time ever in Jerusalem. Director Yaeli Greenblatt and musical director Jeff Rosenschein are thrilled to bring Stephen Schwartz’s classic Broadway musical to a Jerusalem audience. The show, which centers around an enigmatic performance troupe and a young prince, opens on March 7 and runs for seven performances in Starcatcher’s new space at the Machol Shalem Dance House. Greenblatt sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss the unique nature of Pippin, performing aerial work on stage, and how a musical from 1972 can still be very relevant today.
How did you decide on ‘Pippin’?
Pippin has been on our wish list for years. It’s one of my absolute favorite shows and the musical director’s as well. It’s been there in the background pretty much since we started Starcatcher, but we just hadn’t had the right opportunity to do it. I’m so excited because it is such a fabulous show.
What do you love about the show?
So many things. First of all, it has beautiful music. The songs are just great, like “Corner of the Sky.” Emotionally, I’m very connected to the songs. I can burst into tears even after hearing them a million times.
Also, the play itself I find very interesting. It’s written in a way that keeps the audience on their toes. You’re never really sure what’s real and what isn’t and whether the actors are acting or just being themselves. It plays tricks on you in that way and keeps turning into something else. It’s really interesting and unique for an audience to experience that.
For us as a creative team, it’s a perfect sandbox to play in; there are so many opportunities to be creative, there are really no limits. Because it’s an allegory and a fantastical setting, you don’t have to be in the 1920s like you do in Singin’ in the Rain or in New York like you do in Rent. You can anywhere and in any time, which is very exciting. The players in the show are actors and artists, so every prop and every costume, every action that they do is supposed to be very creative and interesting and based in the world of art. So everyone who is working on this is really excited because it creates such great opportunities, for the prop-makers as well as for the actors, to be really out there, unique and interesting. It’s been fun.
It sounds like it. How have rehearsals been going?
It’s been a crazy process. Every musical is challenging because you need people who can dance, sing and act. But here, we have this added layer of circus tricks, acrobatics, juggling and magic tricks. So it’s been really intense. But this cast is amazing. Every time I think that we’re never going to pull this off, they surprise me by somehow finding a way to bring something out in the song that was always there and coming together. We’ve achieved things that are amazing, I think.
We’re doing aerial work and things that you don’t usually do in musical theater, and definitely not in community theater. But we have a group of very talented people. I think this is a fun show to work on for the cast also because it’s challenging, but also because it’s a very unique experience to push yourself, from tap dancing to working with puppets to hanging upside down from a hoop. My only wish is that we had more shows, because seven is so few.
But we have a new space this year, which is a dance space. It’s a nice, large space for the cast to work in and the audience sits very close. In Pippin, they break the fourth wall all the time so it’s important that the audience feels close to the performers and everything that is happening. The space is much more intimate but still has the crazy lighting and all the stuff that we need to create the magical elements of the show.
What is your favorite moment in the show?
I love the whole thing! But if I had to pick one, I would choose the finale sequence because you understand the show in one way, but then you get to the finale and you have to go back and reinterpret everything that you thought. Also the music there is so moving. It’s the climax of the show, where Pippin has to choose what to do with his life. It shifts in that moment to being more about the leading player, who I think is the most fascinating character in the show, and what happens to a performer when they don’t get to do their big finish. How does that affect them? It’s a really moving sequence with beautiful music. Every time we rehearse it, I can see on the actors’ faces that it transforms them somehow.
What do you hope that the audience will take away from the show?
More than anything, to me Pippin is a series of questions. Even with the cast, we never agree on what things mean. We each have our own interpretations. If it makes people unsure of what the show actually means, or what happens to Pippin at the end of the show, I’m actually happy with that. People can have their own theories. Also, I hope it’s an enjoyable night out.
I think we’ve created something fun for people where they can come and laugh and have an opportunity to reflect on their own life. Even though the show may seem far away from real life, it is actually about our political world, our way of discovering what we want to do in life, how we fall in love, and all those things. Even though the show was written in 1972, the way great theater works is that it is still relevant today. Things get reinterpreted. There is a whole section about the news, politics, television and newspapers. That was always there, but it means something today that it didn’t mean back then. These things that were written into the show, simply by being performed here in this time and place in Jerusalem, are given a whole new meaning.
For more information and to purchase tickets: goo.gl/CQJuPx