‘Pippin’ – Lititz youth has feature role in Dutch Apple musical

By on August 23, 2017

While most 14-year-old kids were finishing their summer vacation by jamming every ounce of free time in their day with leisurely activities, Noah Johnson was preparing to take the stage as Theo in the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre’s production of “Pippin.”

“My character … is the kind of kid with a short fuse,” said Johnson, after the premiere of the musical at Dutch Apple on Thursday, Aug. 17. “He likes to show his emotions with actions.”

At his home in Lititz, Johnson enjoys doing the things other 14-year-olds do: playing video games with his brother, watching movies, and even helping his mom around the house. His favorite movie is “Finding Nemo.”

Like the fish in the popular Disney movie, the character of Theo also becomes lost. The son of a widowed mother gets lost in his emotions and feels helpless.

“It’s kind of a big part, because it’s the only kid part in the musical. Then again, I’m not in every single scene,” said Johnson.

Noah Johnson, Lititz (in white), plays Theo in Dutch Apple’s production of “Pippin.” The 14-year-old took a year to attend PA Leadership Charter School, and will enter the ninth grade at Warwick in September. He is a member of Lititz Church of the Brethren and enjoys entertaining residents at Brethren Village. Johnson is shown with castmates Naysh Fox (Pippin) and Savannah Sprinkle (Catherine).

It is not until the second act when theatergoers meet Theo. Until then, the emphasis is on the main character of Pippin, who struggles to find a fulfilling life. Via an acrobatic troupe of strongmen, colorful magicians, and aerial artists, the tale of a wondering young man unwinds on stage as Pippin (Naysh Fox) rebels against his father, King Charlemagne (Brendon Schaefer); goes to war; and delves into sexual conquests. It all unfolds under the direction of a character known only as Leading Player (Housso Semon), who seemingly wants to help Pippin fulfill his life’s desire to be important.

Ultimately, a damaged and beaten Pippin is nursed back to a semblance of normality by the widow landowner Catherine (Savannah Sprinkle) and her pet-duck toting son, Theo. Theo himself falls into depression after the death of his duck and Johnson lets the crowd know his character’s anguish.

The young thespian’s first exposure to theater came in the fifth grade when he performed in a school play. Having caught the bug for acting, he was introduced to professional theater at the Dutch Apple and the American Music Theater where he will be performing in the Christmas Show for the third year. At the Dutch Apple, Johnson performed in past productions of “Marry Poppins” (2016) and “Peter Pan” (2017).

“I liked ‘Mary Poppins’ the best because it was my first experience and the cast taught me a lot about theater,” Johnson said. “I look up to all the people I worked with, all the adults, because they are doing amazing things every day.”

Prior to taking the stage, Johnson took classes in acting and voice from a family friend/professional actor and dance at Pulse Dance Studio in Lititz. His favorite musical is “Wicked,” but he has yet to see a show on Broadway. Johnson’s dream show is to see “Hamilton” on Broadway.

Noah Johnson

After taking a year to attend Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, Johnson will enter the ninth grade at Warwick in September.

“I’m very excited for it,” Johnson said of Warwick.

Despite the inherent nature of creativity in theater, Johnson’s favorite subject is math.

“I’ve been told I have more of a logical mind. I like things in more of an order. I don’t like creative thinking very much,” Johnson said.

Perhaps because of this left-brained dominance, Johnson excels with choreography, which helped with the acrobatic and nonstop nature of “Pippin.” In the show, actors swing, flip, and tumble about the stage in a circus-like atmosphere. Lights dazzle the viewer as music, led by Musical Director JP Meyer, sets the tone for a wild, almost surreal show. The spellbinding show is perfect for Johnson, who played clownlike through the crowd at the opening of the second act. He would like to limit his acting experience to musicals rather than dramas, simply because he likes to sing.

“Maybe instead of musicals I could be a singer,” said Johnson, whose favorite band is the Grammy-winning duo Twenty One Pilots.

The young artist also plays the violin and hopes to start guitar lessons soon.

In “Pippin,” Theo embodies the finale, as he becomes the reanimation of the restless spirit first seen in Pippin. He is hoisted into the air and crowned with a boater hat too big for his head. Yet, this is not the finale for Johnson, who seems poised to take on the world wherever it leads him.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

The cast of Dutch Apple’s “Pippin.”

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