Friday, October 4, 2013

PREVIEW: Talking "Pippin" and musical theatre with Sawyer True

Updated: Read the review of the FGCU production of "Pippin" here.

Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Roger O. Hirson (book) musical "Pippin" tells of a young prince on his search for the meaning of life. How appropriate then that FGCU plays host to this latest production.

One face that might be a few years away (we hope) from the beer bongs and all-nighters - and familiar to Neapolitans is 12-year-old Sawyer True.

Sawyer True as
Gavroche in the
Naples Players
production of
"Les Miserables."
The Oakride Middle student, who shared the role of Gavroche in the Naples Players production of "Les Miserables" this summer, appears throughout the second act as droll, deadpan, drop-dead-funny Theo.

"I'm Theo," Sawyer told me over the phone. "I'm Catherine's son. I carry around a duck. He's like my best friend."

In the context of "Pippin," the characters of Theo and Catherine help Pippin realize that an ordinary life might be fulfilling after all. And Theo gets some great one-liners.

Musical theatre wasn't always in the cards for True, although mom Sharon has appeared in a half-dozen Naples Players musicals, including "The Producers," "All Shook Up," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Hello Dolly!" and "Pinkalicious."

A few years ago, after being signed up for a youth theater show in Fort Myers, Sawyer tells me that his response was "Sure. I'll try it out."

"It was fun," Sawyer told me. "I like it a lot.

"Laughing Phantom" led to "Schoolhouse Rock." And to dance class, voice lessons, parts in the Naples Players KidzAct program. When I talked to Sawyer, he'd just started with the Naples Youth Chorale.

The role in Pippin appeals to True because Theo is a "more challenging" part - vocally - than he's used to. "His voice is changing," Sharon True interjects, "and it's a wider range for him."

"Pippin" also offers experience.

"I like working with new people," Sawyer True said. "I like seeing how other theaters work … everyone was very welcoming."

The youth will get that chance to see how theaters work. Once "Pippin" closes, he and FGCU faculty member Gerritt VanderMeer, the Leading Player, will head into "Whistle Down the Wind" at TheatreZone.

And he's pretty sure that he wants to pursue musical theatre as a career.

"I'd do it [musical theatre] anywhere," Sawyer told me. "Not just Broadway."

"Pippin," directed by Dominic Missimi, the founder of Northwestern University’s musical theatre program, runs October 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 at 7:30 p.m. with matinée performances on October 12 & 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 and available at

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