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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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‘Join us:’ Live theater returns to Bluett

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Giacomo Badalamenti ’24 will star as Pippin in the upcoming production. PHOTO: MELISSA KELLY ’13 M.A.

SJU Theatre Company is returning to live theater in Bluett Theatre with the production of “Pippin,” which opens on Nov. 4. 

Because of the covid-19 pandemic, SJU Theatre has not held a live musical production in Bluett since the fall of 2019. The company produced a drive-in production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the spring of 2021.

“Pippin” tells the story of a young prince who longs for passion and adventure. Advised by the Leading Player, Pippin kills his father, the king, and takes over the throne. Realizing his mistake, Pippin begs the Lead Player to bring back his father, who obliges. Pippin then falls in love and has to decide whether to settle down or continue on with a group of performers known as a troupe, made of actors who conduct magic. 

“Pippin” is not as “cut-and-dry” as most musicals, but is more intricate, according to Giacomo Badalamenti ’24, who plays the role of the titular character. 

“The whole story of it seems simple, but on stage it’s very theatrical, very artsy,” Badalamenti said. “It explores dance, acting, singing, every aspect of theater that I love, and I think the audience will really enjoy it.”

With loosened covid restrictions, the opportunity was taken to put on a real “spectacle,” said Jaspar Albright ’23, who plays the role of the Lead Player, the “ringleader” in the show. This so-called spectacle includes a 19-person cast, big scenes, big dance numbers and a multi-level set.

“There can be significantly more of all the avenues of theater that are in play because of lessened [covid] restrictions, so that’s really exciting.” Albright said. 

A bigger musical comes with its challenges, and in this musical, the biggest challenge was in the choreography, according to Director Renee Dobson, M.F.A, associate professor of performing arts and artistic director of Bluett Theatre. 

“It’s a heavy dance musical, and this has been new for many of the students,” Dobson wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk. 

The cast has responded with determination and high spirits, said Sara Buscaglia ’22, the musical’s dance captain who plays a role in the Band of Players. Buscaglia has been performing for the SJU Theatre Company since the production of “Beauty and the Beast” in 2019.

“You see someone doing their solo and on the side, everyone’s clapping for them, even if we have to be silent because it’s a run,” Buscaglia said.  “I would actually argue that this is one of the most positive and empowering ‘happy to be there’ casts I’ve ever worked with here.”

Badalamenti said the cast has worked well together throughout the whole process. 

“We’ve come so close during this whole thing, and everyone’s making strong character choices,” Badalamenti said. “It’s just a blast to work with everyone.” 

As a sophomore in the role of Pippin, Badalamenti is working hard for this opportunity after obtaining the lead role in last year’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” only to be in quarantine for the production. 

“It’s definitely great motivation for me, It’s almost like I have something to prove now,” Badalamenti said. “I’m just super excited. I really just can’t wait to be back on that stage for the first time really.”

For Albright, the production offers a chance to bring a sense of normalcy to the audience after over a year of uncertainty and restrictions. 

“They’re going to be able to just sit in their seats and watch something that is demonstrating some degree of normalcy,” Albright said. “The first lyric of the show, which I sing, is the phrase ‘join us,’ which is really exciting to be able to sing those words and mean it.”

The musical will run in Bluett Theatre Nov. 4, 5, 6,12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by email ([email protected]) and paid via Venmo (@elena-barb) or purchased the day of by cash only. 

The performers have been tested on a weekly basis, and the rehearsal process was completed in masks, according to Dobson. Audience members will be masked and socially distanced.

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