MAPA teens’ ‘Pippin’ is musically strong and dancing is extraordinary

You could describe “Pippin” as an underappreciated Broadway classic. Some find it too anticlimactic, some suggest it is dated, and others claim it is a little too gimmicky. The one thing all seem to agree on is that the music is phenomenal, and the Fosse choreography is some of his finest work. If you’re going to take on the very ’70s “Pippin,” nailing song and dance is essential. This MAPA production has a few chinks in the armor, but musically it is very strong for an all-youth cast and the dancing is extraordinary.

Makana Gabin, as the Leading Player, presents Fosse movement at a near professional level. It is no easy task to make Fosse look easy, but Gabin and several featured dancers (Kela Rothstein, Emma Smith, Tess Temple, Grace Titley, Violet Titley and Eliza Wright) do just that. Kaimana Neil, perfectly cast in the title role, might be a little green, but he handles Pippin’s difficult tenor part ably. The sheer size of these roles alone, including the ability to sing and dance well at the same time, plus be comical, would make an actor twice their ages nervous. Gabin and Neil both appear completely confident in the roles and joyous in the presentation. Stephen Schwartz has a fashion of giving women the funniest songs, lines and characters. Lana Canton, as Fastrada, nearly steals the show, playing the conniving mother of Pippin. Her solo moment, the factious “Spread a Little Sunshine,” is a highlight of the production. Equally mesmerizing is Carlyn Leal as Catherine, Pippin’s true love. Leal charms the audience with fantastically funny facial expressions and quality vocals on the humorous, “Kind of Woman,” yet easily transitions into the more sobering, and heartfelt, “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man.”

There are three of four adult moments in “Pippin” which could be considered controversial, some for strong language, some for frank sexual suggestion. All of these moments are comedic and generated the biggest laughs of the night by the mostly adult audience. There is nothing in “Pippin” that teenagers haven’t seen or heard before. The teen cast appears energized by advanced performance challenges and portraying young adults, or perhaps who they already are.

* The Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “Pippin,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Roger O. Hirson and Bob Fosse, direction by Sally Sefton, choreography by Katie Higuchi, and musical direction by Marti Kluth. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays in Steppingstone Playhouse at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. “Pippin” is rated PG for mature themes, and recommended for ages 13 and older. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students. For tickets or more information call 244-8760 or visit