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    Unforgettable Pippin Resonates with LGBT Audiences

    By Dr. Betty L. Sullivan

    pippinMy first and only year as a high school drama teacher happened at Bishop Byrne High School, located down the road from Graceland in the suburban town known as Whitehaven just north of the Mississippi-Tennessee state line. The year was 1980, and with the goal in mind of seeing every play I could possibly squeeze into my schedule, I decided to trust a friend’s recommendation of a musical called Pippin playing at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis.

    Pippin had closed on Broadway some years prior, and was making its way through the regional theater circuit. This was fine for my purposes. Let’s just say I was a happy sponge in the year 1980, soaking up everything I possibly could about teaching drama and also about what it meant to be gay now that I had finally admitted it.

    pippin3Sitting in my seat at Playhouse on the Square, I was unknowingly awaiting a play with a main character who was also anticipating change and trying to make sense of what was going on. First came the brightly lit hands emerging from darkness. Then came a haunting tune and the singing of doodle-ee-do:

    “Join us, leave your field to flower.

     Join us, leave your cheese to sour.

    Join us, come and waste an hour or two, doodle-ee-do…”

    White gloves come waving as the lyrics invite everyone, even a studious one like me, to break away and have some fun. Why? Because we have magic to do and it’s just for you. Because we have miracle plays to play.

    pippin2What else does Pippin bring? An initiation rite storyline and a song about finding one’s own corner of the sky, wanting life to be something more than long.

    It also features an incorrigible granny with a song so compelling that I lost myself one time singing it while driving down Interstate 55 toward New Orleans. Ended up that song with a speeding ticket, I did, and I knew in my heart it was that granny singing about time to start living and a chance to raise some hell. She was to blame for that ticket.

    Pippin is a parable about making right choices, valuing hearth and family, and standing for country, flags flying, armor polished. Pippin brings the story of Charlemagne, aka Charles the Great of France. I relived that play, and those thoughts of magic to do, some years later while standing outside of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, where a big statue of Charles the Great dominates the courtyard.

    The musical is a modern day medieval allegory with a morning glow that’s here…at last.

    And right here in San Francisco, I remember some years ago smiling and singing along on my first visit to AT&T Park when, just before a Giants game began, that remarkable song “Magic to Do” came flowing across the stadium, and I had a moment of thinking about the magic of living here so many years and miles away from Memphis, TN, and the Mississippi Delta just south of there.

    So, I have been trying now to have and do magic for the past three and a half decades. Trying all over the U.S. and in a big handful of international places too. How many fields have I left to flower? I wonder, and I wonder how much cheese did or didn’t sour? Pippin launched me in 1980, launched my magic, and I can’t begin to say how excited I am that the traveling company of this important show is on its way and will soon open for a four-week run at SHN’s Golden Gate Theatre on Market Street in San Francisco.

    For more information about the show and to buy tickets, please visit:

    Dr. Betty L. Sullivan is the founder of “Betty’s List” and the co-publisher of the “San Francisco Bay Times.”

    Spotlighting Five Pippin Stars
    The national touring cast of Pippin is a mind-blower for Broadway fans. For starters, it includes Tony Award winner John Rubinstein, who created the role of “Pippin” in the 1972 original Broadway production. The cast and crew also include several out and proud talented individuals, such as the following:

    Alan Kelly (Player, Understudy for Charles) Dublin born Kelly trained at the National Performing Arts School and the College of Dance in Dublin. A skilled actor, voiceover artist and choreographer, Kelly’s work continues to take him from stage to screen in performances seen all over the world.

    Mark Burrell (Swing, Assistant Choreographer, Dance Captain) Juilliard graduate Burrell made his Broadway debut in the first national tour of Fosse, so he was more than ready to immerse himself in the Bob Fosse-styled choreography of Pippin.

    Mathew deGuzman (Player, understudy for Lewis) deGuzman has been performing in the theater professionally for 20 years. His shows include Tony-nominated productions on Broadway, such as Follies and A Christmas Story, The Musical.

    Fernando Dudka (Player) Cirque du Soleil favorite Dudka will take your breath away with his solo hand balancing act and other acrobatic moves.

    Borris York (Player) As York’s website says, “Imagine the genuine honesty of Oprah with the sheer determinism of Beyoncé, wrapped up in the charming presence of a young Sydney Poitier and you’ve got Borris York!” Having watched the videos of handsome York, we’re inclined to agree.