Teens help ‘Pippin’ find his ‘corner of the sky’

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By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

A group of teens have gathered this summer in Bristol to work on their theatrical skills. And in the process of doing so, they will be breathing life into the story of one of their peer who is trying to figure out his purpose in the world.

The first-year Revolutionary Youth Theatre troupe is staging a production of Stephen Schwartz’s 1972 musical, “Pippin.” The show opens July 19 at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol.

The musical, with a book by Roger O. Hirson, tells the story of a young prince, Pippin, “in search of the secret to true happiness and fulfillment,” explains a press release from the theater company.

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“Pippin just graduated from school and is just trying to find his place in the world,” said Ryan Vaitkus of Bristol, who plays the title role. For a teen, said Vaitkus, Pippin’s effort to “figure out where you fit in, what best suits you as a person… is very relatable.”

As a teen, said Olivia Lanteri of Southington, “often we struggle to find our own way through puberty, high school, and college.”

“It’s really hard to find where you fit,” said Lanteri, who is one of 16 teens who will take the stage for “Pippin.”

“(The character of Pippin’s) complex,” said Vaitkus, “he’s extraordinary. He’s trying to find his ‘corner of the sky’ (one of the opening songs in the show).”

“There are all of these steps that need to be taken to get to that point (of getting his corner of the sky) that he think he already has taken,” said Vaitkus of Pippin. But the young prince eventually learns he didn’t need to take the steps he thought he needed. There are other ways to be the best you can be, said Vaitkus.

“Pippin’s” composer, Steven Schwartz, is a well-known figure in the world of musical theater. In addition to “Pippin,” Schwartz’s resume is long and includes two pillars of modern stage shows, “Wicked” and “Godspell.”

As a young performer, Madison Howe of Torrington said Schwartz’s work pushes her and challenges her musical skills. She said it’s difficult enough to learn all of the complex music in Schwartz’s creation. But, she said, she also has her singing skills put to the test by the harmonies Schwartz has crafted for the show.

“I think the (vocal) range of the music challenges me as a performer,” said Lanteri. Normally a soprano, Lanteri’s role as Catherine, Pippin’s love interest, finds her singing notes normally reserved for an alto. Thanks to Schwartz’s compositions, said Lanteri, “I’m actually able to grow my range and become a better singer.”

Revolutionary Youth Theatre is a non-profit theater troupe that brings together talented teens from across the state to put on a show. It offers most of the performers an opportunity to work with students from other schools that they might not otherwise have had a chance to work with.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity,” said Lanteri of Revolutionary Youth Theatre. “I love meeting new people and just being in an environment where everybody is here to work.”

“At my school, there are really only a couple of kids who are interested in theater,” said Howe, “so being around a bunch of different kids from different schools is really fun when we’re all focused on one thing we love to do.”

“I think this opportunity just extends that joy you get from performing and shows people a different way at looking at life,” said Vaitkus.

Howe said audiences coming to the show will be wowed by the talent on stage in the Revolutionary Youth Theatre production. “Ryan is an amazing performer. Olivia is amazing. Everyone is an amazing performer,” said the Torrington teen.

“The end goal of all theater is to have the audience feel something and to create an emotion and have people become so invested in what you are performing on stage,” said Lanteri. “I think this audience is going to be entertained by not only the magic going on stage (during the course of the evening) but they really are going to be enthralled by the relationship between Catherine and Pippin and (the story of) Pippin finding his way.”

“It’s a very entertaining show,” said Lanteri.

Revolutionary Youth Theatre’s production of “Pippin,” directed by Mark Mazzarella, will be performed Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul Catholic High School, 1001 Stafford Ave., Bristol.

Tickets are $15 for seniors and students and $20 for adults.

Tickets are available at the door or at RevolutionaryYouthTheatre.org.