Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pippi Longstocking (1982)

Pippi Longstocking
Based on the Books and Musical Play by Astrid Lindgren
Adapted by Thomas W. Olson
from a translation by Thomas W. Olson and Truda Stockenstrom
Original Music Composed, Orchestrated and Directed by Roberta Carlson
Original Lyrics by Roberta Carlson and Thomas W. Olson
Directed and Choreographed by Myron Johnson
Scenic Design by Jack Barkla

In the autumn of 1982, after several years of development, The Children's Theatre Company and School premiered a new musical "Pippi Longstocking" based on the popular series of children's books created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.  Combining her books -- along with a new play Mrs. Lindgren had, herself, recently authored for the Stockholm stage -- resident playwright Thomas W. Olson teamed up with longtime CTC composer/lyricist Roberta Carlson and fashioned a new work that would pay homage to the Twin Cities' substantial community of Scandinavian descendants as well as preserve a certain "innocence" in setting the work in the late 1940s (the time the books were first published), rather than use the jarringly contemporary sound and sensibilities of Mrs. Lindgren's play.  Furthermore, Mrs. Lindgren's Stockholm rendition of her stories was fashioned for an actress much older than the vulnerable child the books' heart and soul depended upon.  

Wendy Lehr as Mrs. Prysselius, Annie Enneking as Pippi Longstocking.

When the drama of the piece rests upon a struggle with the Child Welfare Board -- along with Pippi's loneliness for her Papa and Mama -- an actress far beyond adolescence would turn the story into some ludicrous cartoon.  Olson, Carlson, and director Myron Johnson insisted that children be cast in the roles of Pippi and the Settergren children to preserve the integrity and power of the stories, even though the performance demands would be daunting.

Kathleen Wegner, Annie Enneking, Wendy Lehr, Leslye Orr.

Not enough can be said about the original Pippis (there were two, alternating performances: Annie Enneking and Marnie Osterberg).  Their abundant talent and total commitment to bringing this childhood icon to manic life was truly phenomenal.  Annie would, the following winter, receive the 1982 Twin Cities Drama Critics "Kudos Award" as outstanding actress of the year for her portrayal.

The original production (and its subsequent incarnations, including a national tour in 1990-91) were sell-outs and garnered glowing reviews.  Mrs. Lindgren herself deemed the CTC production far superior to her own.  Furthermore, the play later earned the distinction of becoming the first "outside" script and score to be included in the Rodgers and Hammerstein script rental catalog.  

The composer, Roberta Carlson, utilized Swedish folk songs in a number of instances, specifically "Plocka vill jag skogsviol," "A Janta a ja," and "Vem kan segla förutan vind?" The scenic and costume designs also paid homage to Scandinavian folk art.

Foreground R: Marnie Osterberg as Pippi, Julee Cruise as Miss Teacher.

L to R: Nancy Seward, Scot Michael, Kathleen Wegner, Annie Enneking, Wendy Lehr, Leslye Orr.

Audio clips from the original production are included below, as well as three documentation video excerpts.  

Audio excerpts:

Opening: (Children and Miss Teacher (Julee Cruise)

Pippi's Story: (Annie Enneking, Nancy Seward, Scot Michael)

Village Carnival:

Lullaby (Studio Demo: Julee Cruise, Gary Costello, Thomas Olson)
note:  All songs were sent to Mrs. Lindgren for her approval.  This is a rare recording of a demo, accompanied by the composer Roberta Carlson on piano, with now-international recording sensation Julee Cruise singing Pippi's part (and Mrs. Settergren, when necessary), Gary singing Annika's part (and Mrs. Settergren, when necessary), and playwright Olson singing Tommy's part.  This rendition of the lullaby was not included in the production.)

Go to sleep now, Mr. Nillson.
Time to pull the covers up above your head.
Dream of jungle flowers and giant butterflies
Dream of stars as big as birds flying 'cross the skies
Dream of home.
In my dreams I sail the seven seas
My Papa's just a dream away.
'Til morning light brings me home again
'Til Papa joins us one fine day.

Mrs. Settergren (offstage, as Annika and Tommy appear below Pippi's window)
Annika and Tommy, time to go to bed.
Tommy!  Annika!


Are you home, Pippi?

Pippi. (Tiptoeing downstairs to meet them.)
Shh.  Mr. Nilsson is falling asleep.  I thought I just heard your Mama calling you.

We came to say goodnight.

In case you were feeling lonely.

Since you don't have a Mama or Papa here.

But they're with me in my dreams.  And I dream of them every night.
Dream of sea spray, dream of clouds of stars
Dream of angels flying in the moonlight
Dream the most outrageous dream you know
Dream that wishes do come true
Dream of Papa coming home
Dream his ship's sailing into view...

Annika & Tommy.
Starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight

Mrs. Settergren. (Offstage, distant.)
Tommy!  Annika!  
Time to say your prayers.  
Time to go to bed...

We better go.

Pippi, did you see how lovely the stars are tonight?

Oh, ja!  My Mama sure must have it good!  Just imagine how beautiful Heaven must be -- when it looks this nice from the backside!

You can wish upon a star.  Did you know that, Pippi?

You can?  How wonderful!

Tommy & Annika.  (Alternating with Pippi.)
Pippi - see the stars!

Dream of clouds of stars...

Tommy & Annika.
They're the peepholes into heaven...

Dream of Papa's ship...

Tommy & Annika.
So the Lord can protect us.

Dream of angel wings...

Tommy & Annika.
He will keep us in His sight.

Dream of Mama.

Annika, Pippi, Tommy.
And the angels
Guardian angels
They'll watch over us throughout the night
Pleasant dreams then 'til morning...

Mrs. Settergren.
Tommy!  Annika!

Annika & Tommy. (Heading toward the door.)
We'll be back again at morning light.

Mrs. Settergren. 
Time to go to bed. 
Time to say goodnight.

Dream new friends in my new home...



Farewell and Finale:

Video Clip:  Mrs. Prysselius (Wendy Lehr) meets Pippi (Annie Enneking):

Video Clip:  Village Fair

Video Clip:  Coffee Party (Kathleen Wegner as Mrs. Settergren, Wendy Lehr as Mrs. Prysselius, Leslye Orr as Mrs. Granberg, Nancy Seward as Annika, Scot Michael as Tommy)

No comments:

Post a Comment