Friday, July 3, 2015

Pippin at the Starlight

by Pa Rock
Culture Vulture

The occasional weekend jaunts to Kansas City serve as welcome diversions to my otherwise mundane and rustic existence.  I enjoy life on the farm, but it is always fun to get away for a few days and dip my toes into some culture.

This week marks the first trip that I've been able to make to Kansas City since my birthday outing last March.  I had told my son, Tim, that one of the things on my KC bucket list was to visit the Starlight Theatre, and this proved to be the trip when that item got checked off.  Last night we went to the Starlight and saw an extremely good production of the musical Pippin.

Both the theatre and the play were new experiences for me.

The Starlight is an enormous outdoor venue located in Kansas City's famous Swope Park.  The theatre, which seats nearly eight thousand people, is owned by Kansas City and operated by a public commission.   Admission is fairly pricey, and there is a fee for parking ($7.00 per car!), but aside from those indignities, an evening at the Starlight is a most positive experience.  Well, positive if it doesn't rain - which it did on us last night, sending many theatre-goers and Tim rushing to the gift shops to buy one-dollar ponchos.  But even the rain, light though it was, added to the charm and authenticity of theatre in the out-of-doors.

(When I phoned for tickets, the box office lady made darned sure that I understood there would be no refunds - regardless of what the weather decided to do.)

Tim and I walked around a bit before the show and even joined in one of the theatre tours.  We listened to a group of talented young people singing the scores from Camelot and Mary Poppins in the outdoor greenery.  One of the theatre workers told me that the kids were part of the "Starlight Stars," a collection of students who work at the theatre and take classes there during the summers.

Pippin is the fictionalized story of one of Charlemagne's sons, Pippin, who has been to the university and is now struggling to find meaning in life and chart his own future.   The tale of Pippin is being told by a traveling circus, replete with wild animals, actors, and acrobats.  The musical score, while quite good, contains no show-stoppers or tunes that you will find yourself singing in the shower on the morning following the performance, but the physical aspects of the show, the dancing and acrobatics, are quite memorable.  The tale itself meets the criteria of being a good stage production by capturing the attention of the audience and deftly playing upon their emotions.

The only member of the cast who was readily familiar to a large portion of those in attendance was film and television actress Adrienne Barbeau who played Pippin's grandmother.  Ms. Barbeau, perhaps best known for her role as Bea Arthur's sexpot daughter, Carol, in the 1970's sitcom Maude, received a nice round of applause when she stepped out onto the stage.  When the performer, who turned seventy last month, shed her grandmotherly garb to reveal herself in a sparkly one-piece, there were many oohs and aahs from across the packed house.  The sexy senior citizen sang, she danced, and she even performed some aerial acrobatics!  As Ms. Barbeau exited the stage, Pippin piped up proudly, "That's my granny!"

All of that and a cheeseburger from Culver's!   Oh, how I love Kansas City!

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