The producers of the new incarnation of the Stephen Schwartz musical “Pippin” at The Papermill Playhouse in Milburn, New Jersey wanted a big set piece for the pivotal cremation sequence planned for this production. Illusion consultant Charles Reynolds, in conjunction with show designer Michael Anania conceived an eye filling version of this classic effect. “In regards to the plot, ‘Pippin’ is a ‘quest’ show,” explained Reynolds when speaking with MagicTimes. “The story builds to the cremation. Pippin himself is to be burned in it. Another character demonstrates what Pippin has to do. He enters the cabinet which is then hoisted into the air. Fire comes out from everywhere. The incinerated actor has vanished in the flames and makes his re-appearance from a balcony on stage. The plot takes another turn before concluding with Pippin heading off with his lady love at the finale.”
Reynolds remarked, “It’s probably the largest Cremation ever constructed. If you brought the prop to New York City you could rent the cabinet out as a one bedroom apartment!” Despite its size it is still very effective. The actual fabrication of the illusion was carried out by Bill Schmeelk of Wellington Enterprises who frequently collaborates with Reynolds on special projects. “A decapitation in conjunction with a ‘Talking Head’ on a table is another magic effect we constructed for this production,” added Schmeelk. The pyrotechnic elements for the cremation were put together by O’Connor FX on the west coast.With an eye toward perhaps taking this staging to the Great White Way, the show stars Jack Noseworthy, star of the current hit motion picture, “US 71.” Noseworthy is supported by Broadway veteran Charlotte Rae and an excellent cast. Ticket prices run from $42.50 to $60.00 depending on performance time and seat location. The Playhouse box office can be reached by calling 1-800-711-4815 or at their Website www.papermill.org. This stylish new staging of “Pippin” will be “burning up the house” through July 23rd.
–Richard Steven Cohn
Richard Steven Cohn has written for Genii, Magicol, M.U.M., The Yankee Collector, MAGIC, as well as magic themed articles for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine and Stagebill. He is a magical consultant for television and theater and performs both as a single and with his wife Alexandra.