The Broadway classic Pippin, which opens in Wilmington tonight, offered physical challenges for its lead actor.
The musical “Pippin” tells the story of a young prince who returns home with a newly minted university degree and not a clue about what to do with the rest of his life.
That’s a challenge actor Naysh Fox never had to overcome. Fox always knew exactly what he wanted to do and tonight he’ll open in the title role of 2013’s Tony Award-winning revival of the musical at The Playhouse on Rodney Square in Wilmington.
“I remember watching the movie ‘Hearts in Atlantis’ with Anthony Hopkins when I was six years old and telling my mom, ‘I want to do that. I want to act,” said the 26-year-old Rhode Island native. “I guess I knew from that moment on.”
But it was musical theatre that became his calling. Fox—a trifecta of talent– studied dance at Rhode Island College and Jacobs Pillow in Massachusetts, acting at the Atlantic Conservatory in New York City and voice with Metropolitan Opera tenor Eduardo Valdes.
“My favorite part of musical theatre is the incorporation of the singing with the acting and the storytelling that can be translated throughout our country,” he said by phone from Binghamton, N.Y. “I love the storytelling part of it.”
Fox’s resume includes an impressive array of roles in regional productions of “West Side Story,” “Legally Blonde,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Footloose” and “London Rocks.” But his favorite role is Pippin, the oldest son of King Charlemagne who goes on a mission to find his life’s purpose.
“‘Pippin’ is an everyman’s story,” said Fox who played the role in a college production. “He comes home seeking guidance and on his journey he tries war, he tries politics and at the end he’s supposed to do this grand finale but discovers that what he finds fulfilling is being selfless and in love with a woman and her son which I think is beautiful.”
This incarnation of the 1970s original is not a mere musical but a spectacle. Wrapped in a circus theme and punctuated by death-defying acrobatics and dazzling illusions and stunts, this revival vaults composer Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell” “Wicked”) and late choreographer Bob Fosse into the 21st century consciousness.
It also forced Fox to acquire a set of skills that went way beyond his comfort zone, including learning how to throw a knife, backflip off someone’s shoulders and free-fall down a flight of stairs.
“It was definitely a little scary,” he said. “But the circus people and the acrobats are super-human. They’re so intelligent and they’re masters of their bodies and the way they work with one another and openly give their trust is amazing.”
Fox believes the play offers an important take-home message for the audience. “I want people to realize that like in the show there are no wrong endings, just different choices,” he said. “If you can go to bed happy with what you’ve decided and what you’re doing, that’s the best feeling of all.”
IF YOU GO:What: PIPPINWhen: March 7-12, 2017Times: Tuesday-Thursday evening performances at 7:30pmFriday & Saturday evening performances at 8:00pmWednesday, Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2pmPrice: $40-$85Discounts available for seniors and groups of 10 or more and children ages 12 and under.Box Office: The Playhouse on Rodney Square1007 N. Market StreetWilmington, DEPhone: 302.888.0200Website: www.ThePlayhouseDE.org