‘Pippin’ showcases local talent

Special to The PREVIEW

pippinCurtains Up Pagosa! has a knack for choosing musical productions that are enjoying a revival on Broadway.  This has happened on numerous occasions and the upcoming production of “Pippin”  is no exception.  Broadway’s current production has been nominated for numerous Tony awards that will be announced this week.

Pagosa Springs has its own Broadway of sorts through local productions by Curtains Up Pagosa!  CUP features the talents of local actors and musicians, certainly an auspicious group of actors and musicians that continue to astound local audiences and visitors with their talent and skill.

“Pippin,” an edgy contemporary musical (music by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson) made its first appearance on Broadway in the 1970s, starring Tony Award winner Ben Vereen as Leading Player, and directed by the renowned Bob Fosse.

The Curtains Up Pagosa! version will present veteran actor/singer Robert Neel in the Leading Player role.

Neel is a junior year CUP scholarship student at Santa Fe University of Art and Design in Santa Fe, N.M., majoring in musical theater.  The four-year scholarship awarded by Curtains Up Pagosa! is presented to students majoring in the fine arts who have proven to be exceptional students and show great potential in their field.  Neel, a two-time member of the Colorado All-State Choir, graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in 2011 and was selected to enter the elite group of arts students at SFUAD with the hopes of someday going to Broadway.

Since his arrival at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, his studies have included theater, dance, vocal studies, directing, stagecraft, script writing, as well as performance opportunities.  The work has been intense but rewarding.  At the conclusion of his college freshman year, Neel starred in a student production of the musical “Rent,” wowing audiences with his exuberant acting and singing talent.  Since then, he has performed in a school production of “Dracula” and featured as a student director of the play “Poison.”

Pagosa audiences will remember his sperformance as Javier in the 2011 high school production of “Les Miserables.” Neel also played starring roles in high school productions of “West Side Story” and “High School Musical,” as well as CUP productions of “Into the Woods,”  “The Beat Goes On,”  “Annie,” “South Pacific” and “Cinderella.”

“It is always exciting to have our college students come back and give us the benefit of their developing skills,” said director, Dale Johnson.  “Robert wowed us with his beautiful voice from the moment he arrived in Pagosa Springs as a high school sophomore back in 2008.  We knew after his first audition that we had a very talented kid on our hands.  It was so exciting to watch him grow his talents under our tutelage and then to send him off to Santa Fe University of Art and Design and see how he has developed his skills.  Our first rehearsal for ‘Pippin’ literally had me saying ‘Wow!’  I was completely blown away by his voice.  I think audiences are in for a real treat.”

Curtains Up Pagosa! production of “Pippin”  will play at Pagosa Spring High School, June 28, 29 and 30 and July 3, 5 and 6, with tickets on sale at the Visitor Center beginning June 17.  Proceeds from the production help provide scholarships for students who major in the arts, assist local public school arts programs, and provide assistance to select students who request private study.

You can learn more about how to support Curtains Up Pagosa! by going online to www.pagosamusicboosters.org.

This story was posted on June 6, 2013.