PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Tale of Despereaux: A New Musical
Book, music, and lyrics by PigPen Theatre Co.
Based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo and the Universal Pictures animated film
Directed by Marc Bruni and PigPen Theatre Co.
Special Presentation · Roda Theatre
November 21, 2019–January 5, 2020
Running time: 1 hour and 35 minutes, no intermission
A musical adventure awaits you this holiday season when the acclaimed PigPen Theatre Co. brings its inventive and imaginative retelling of the beloved, Newbery Medal-winning modern fable to Berkeley Rep. The courageous Despereaux, shunned by his community for his love of stories and humans, shows a forlorn kingdom that even the smallest voice can change the world—and that it only takes a little light to reveal the truth.
An indie folk band that creates dazzling works of theatre, PigPen infuses this tale of bravery, forgiveness, and redemption with their masterful music, stunning stage effects, and witty performances. PigPen’s The Tale of Despereaux is a spellbinding musical treat that resonates with adults and children alike.
An important note regarding health and content advisories:
The Tale of Despereaux includes haze and fog effects. Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. We don’t offer unsolicited content advisories as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have concerns about content or themes, we are happy to provide details. Please call our box office at 510 647–2949 or email email@example.com.
Please note: For The Tale of Despereaux, all evening performances begin at 7pm.
PigPen Theatre Co. · Book / Music / Lyrics / Co-Directors
PigPen Theatre Co. began creating their unique brand of theatre, music, and film as freshmen at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama in 2007. They have since produced their original plays in New York City and toured the country, earning them Critic’s Picks from The New York Times, Time Out New York, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The Boston Globe, and many more, ranking them in the top 10 theatrical events of 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2016. They were the first group to win the New York International Fringe Festival’s top honor for a play two years in a row (2010 and 2011), and they have since gone on to win IRNE (2012, 2015) and Joseph Jefferson Awards (2014) for their theatrical productions. In 2016, Sir Trevor Nunn invited PigPen to be a part of his first American acting company for a production of Shakespeare’s Pericles. PigPen’s debut album, Bremen, was named No. 10 album of the year in The Huffington Post’s 2012 Grammy Awards preview, sending PigPen on tour playing to sold-out crowds across the country. American Songwriter premiered their follow-up EP, The Way I’m Running, in 2013 while the band was playing a series of concerts that became one of the most popular residencies of the past decade at the legendary Schubas Tavern in Chicago. In 2015, PigPen released their sophomore album, Whole Sun; performed at Mumford & Sons’s return to the Gentlemen of the Road festival; and made their feature film debut in Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash starring Meryl Streep. In addition to The Tale of Despereaux, they are creating a musical based on Sara Gruen’s beloved novel Water for Elephants (in collaboration with Rick Elice). In 2020, they will premiere their first interactive theatrical experience, The Phantom Folktales, for Richard Branson’s groundbreaking cruise line Virgin Voyages.
Marc Bruni · Co-Director
Marc is the director of the Tony, Olivier, and Grammy Award-winning Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. He won the Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Musical for its Australian production, and the show has played the Broadway, West End, U.S. and UK tours, and Japan. His other credits include Paint Your Wagon, Pipe Dream, Fanny, and Hey, Look Me Over! (City Center Encores!), The Music Man and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (The Kennedy Center), Old Jews Telling Jokes (New York and Chicago; Joseph Jefferson Award nomination), Roman Holiday (Golden Gate Theatre), Trevor (Writers Theatre; Jeff Award nomination), The Explorers Club (Manhattan Theatre Club), The Sound of Music (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Other People’s Money (Long Wharf Theatre; Connecticut Critics Circle Award nomination), and Ordinary Days (Roundabout Theatre Company). He has directed nine musicals for The Muny in St. Louis, most recently My Fair Lady and Singin’ in the Rain, and he has twice been nominated for Kevin Kline Awards. He is a proud member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a graduate of Dartmouth College.
Jennifer Jancuska · Choreographer
Jennifer is a choreographer and founding artistic director of the Brooklyn-based company The BringAbout, whose development work has been engaged by award-winning writers, directors, and producers and seen on stages from New York to California. Jennifer is known for producing BC BEAT, described by The New York Times as a platform to “reimagine the possibilities for dance in musical theater.” Jennifer is currently working on Broadway as resident choreographer/dance supervisor of Hamilton. As choreographer, she is thrilled to be developing three new musicals with upcoming productions. They include Hood (Asolo Rep), Anne of Green Gables (Goodspeed), Johnny and the Devil’s Box (Goodspeed), and Despereaux. Cornell University graduate. Member of SDC. JenniferJancuska.com
Christopher Jahnke · Music Director and Additional Arrangements
Christopher orchestrated the Broadway and/or London productions of King Kong, Legally Blonde, Cry-Baby, Grease (2007 revival), Dessa Rose, A Man of No Importance, Dear Evan Hansen (additional orchestrations, with Alex Lacamoire), Stiles and Drewe’s The Wind in the Willows, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (Tony Award nomination for Best Orchestrations), and Les Misérables (new orchestrations, performed worldwide since 2006). His other orchestrations include Do You Hear the People Sing?, a symphonic tour of Boublil and Schönberg’s work; Stiles and Leigh’s Tom Jones; Stiles and Drewe’s Just So; Bartram and Hill’s Not Wanted on the Voyage; Lady Gaga’s tribute to The Sound of Music at the 2015 Oscars (with Stephen Oremus); The Wiz Live!; Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spectacular and Christmas Spectacular; and work with Rufus Wainwright, Emily Bear, Adam Schlesinger, and Jägermeister Blaskapelle. On Broadway, Christopher also served as conductor for Aida and music supervisor for Escape to Margaritaville and Memphis. He was apprentice and assistant to orchestrator William David Brohn on Sweet Smell of Success, Ragtime, The Secret Garden, The Three Musketeers, The Witches of Eastwick, Mary Poppins, and Wicked.
Jason Sherwood · Scenic Design
Jason is a Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Award, and Henry Hewes Design Award nominee. He recently designed Rent: Live (for which he won an Emmy Award); Sam Smith’s arena world tour and campaign television appearances (including The Grammy Awards, Saturday Night Live, and Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show); the Spice Girls world tour; and The People’s Choice Awards on E! He has also designed for New York Theatre Workshop, The Playwright’s Realm, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, American Repertory Theater, and Guthrie Theater, among many others. @JasonSherwoodDesign
Anita Yavich · Costume Design
Anita returns to Berkeley Rep having designed Brian Freeman’s Civil Sex, The Oresteia, Tiny Kushner, Dael Orlandersmith’s Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men, and Chinglish. Anita designed the Broadway productions of Fool for Love, Venus in Fur, Chinglish, and Anna in the Tropics. Her other New York credits include The Mother (Atlantic Theater Company); Apologia (Roundabout Theatre Company); Soft Power and Oedipus El Rey (The Public Theater’s New York Shakespeare Festival); The View Upstairs (Lynn Redgrave Theater); The Legend of Georgia McBride, Coraline, and The Wooden Breeks (MCC Theater); Nathan the Wise, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Orlando, New Jerusalem, and Texts for Nothing (Classic Stage Company); Thom Pain (based on nothing), Big Love, Kung Fu, Golden Child, and Iphigenia 2.0 (Signature Theatre Company); The Oldest Boy (Lincoln Center Theater); The Moors (The Playwrights Realm); The Explorers Club (Manhattan Theatre Club); and Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Švejk (Theatre for a New Audience). Her opera credits include Aida (San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera), Cyrano de Bergerac (La Scala, The Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House), and Les Troyens (The Met). Anita was also the puppet and costume designer for The Sound of Music (Salzburger Marionettentheater). She has received Obie, Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, and Ovation Awards. Upcoming she will design Der Ring des Nibelungen for Opera Australia in Brisbane.
Donald Holder · Lighting Design
Donald previously designed Zora Neale Hurston’s Spunk, Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar, and the world premieres of Paradise Square and Monsoon Wedding at Berkeley Rep. His recent work on Broadway includes Anastasia, Oslo, In Transit, She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof, The Father, The King and I, On the Twentieth Century, The Bridges of Madison County, Golden Boy, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Ragtime, Movin’ Out, The Boy from Oz, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and many others. He has designed over 50 Broadway productions, received two Tony Awards (The Lion King and South Pacific) and 13 Tony nominations. Opera credits include Samson et Delilah, Otello, Two Boys, and The Magic Flute (New York Metropolitan Opera), and Porgy and Bess for the English National Opera and the Dutch National Opera. He designed the theatrical lighting for seasons one and two of Smash (NBC DreamWorks) and for the Warner Bros. film Ocean’s 8. Donald is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and is a Professor of Lighting Design at Rutgers University.
Nevin Steinberg · Sound Design
Nevin’s Broadway credits include Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown (Tony Award), The Cher Show, Bandstand, Bright Star, It Shoulda Been You, Mothers and Sons, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Tony nomination), The Performers, and Magic/Bird. His off-Broadway credits include Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, The Landing, and Far from Heaven. He designed over 30 Broadway productions with Acme Sound Partners, receiving five additional Tony nominations, for The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Fences, Hair, and In the Heights.
Lydia Fine · Shadow Sequences and Puppetry Co-Designer
Lydia is a Brooklyn-based designer and award-winning creative director. She has been working with PigPen Theatre Co. since their days together at Carnegie Mellon University. Her past productions with them include the critically acclaimed The Old Man and The Old Moon, The Nightmare Story, and The Hunter and The Bear. She is also the creative director for The Phantom Folktales, a unique theatrical experience taking place on the soon-to-be-launched Virgin Voyages. When she is not playing with shadow puppets, she is working in various media, creating worlds and characters for films, music videos, photo shoots, and immersive events. lydiafine.com
Nick Lehane · Shadow Sequences and Puppetry Co-Designer
Nick worked previously with PigPen Theatre Co. as the puppet designer for The Phantom Folktales and the understudy for The Old Man and The Old Moon. His puppet play Chimpanzee premiered earlier this year at HERE Arts Center. His original puppet work has shown at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Puppet BloK at Dixon Place, The Jim Henson Carriage House, Special Effects Festival at wild project, and Pillsbury House Theatre. Nick’s select puppet performance credits include Robin Frohardt’s The Plastic Bag Store and The Pigeoning (HERE Arts Center, international tour), Petrushka (Giants Are Small, New York Philharmonic, Barbican Centre), Islamic Solidarity Games Opening Ceremonies (Baku, Azerbaijan), Doug Fitch’s El Retablo de Maese Pedro (American Symphony Orchestra, Bard SummerScape), James Ortiz’s The Little Mermaid (Glass Bandits Theater Company, Strangemen Theatre Company), and Lore (Amazon). He also provided puppet and movement direction for SeaWife (Naked Angels). Nick received his BFA in Drama from Carnegie Mellon University.
Tara Rubin Casting · Casting
Tara Rubin Casting’s select Broadway credits include Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations, King Kong, The Band’s Visit, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Prince of Broadway, Bandstand, Indecent, Sunset Boulevard, Miss Saigon, Dear Evan Hansen, A Bronx Tale The Musical, Cats, Falsettos, Disaster!, School of Rock, Gigi, Bullets Over Broadway, Aladdin, Les Misérables, The Heiress, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Billy Elliot: The Musical, Shrek The Musical, Young Frankenstein, Mary Poppins, Spamalot, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Producers, Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys, and The Phantom of the Opera. Their off-Broadway credits include Gloria: A Life; Smokey Joe’s Cafe; Clueless, The Musical; The Band’s Visit; Here Lies Love; and Love, Loss, and What I Wore. They have also cast regionally for McCarter Theatre Center, Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Paper Mill Playhouse, The Old Globe, and more.
Libby Unsworth · Production Stage Manager
Broadway: Prince of Broadway, Les Misérables, The Visit, and Scandalous. Off-Broadway: Bat Out of Hell (New York City Center), The Niceties and Sell/Buy/Date (Manhattan Theatre Club), The Beast in the Jungle (Vineyard Theatre), At Home at the Zoo (Signature Theatre Company), Fire and Air (Classic Stage Company), Murder for Two (New World Stages), Bunnicula (DR2 Theatre), Next Fall (Naked Angels), and Speech & Debate (Roundabout Theatre Company). Regional: The Old Globe, The 5th Avenue, George Street, Two River, Williamstown Theatre Festival (eight seasons), Geffen Playhouse, Goodspeed, and Huntington Theatre Company. She received her BFA in Stage Management from Boston University.
Hsiu-I Chiquita Lu · Assistant Stage Manager
Hsiu-I Chiquita Lu is delighted to return to Berkeley Rep after serving as assistant stage manager on The Great Wave. Originally from Taiwan—on the other side of the Pacific Ocean—Hsiu-I is a freelance stage manager who works internationally. Favorite past productions include Men on Boats at Playwrights Horizons, Hollywood at La Jolla Playhouse, Taiwan Season: 038 in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and Cikawasay with Kuo Shin Chuang Pancah Dance Theatre. She earned her MFA from University of California, San Diego.
Universal Theatrical Group
Universal Theatrical Group is the live-theatre division of the world-famous motion picture studio. Universal’s record-breaking phenomenon Wicked is currently celebrating its 17th hit year on Broadway. With a national tour and multiple international productions, Wicked has been seen by over 60 million people worldwide, making it one of the most successful theatrical ventures of all time. Additional credits include Billy Elliot the Musical; Bring It On: The Musical; and Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn with Roundabout Theatre Company. Upcoming under UTG’s DreamWorks Theatricals banner is the West End premiere of The Prince of Egypt, opening in February 2020.
Tyrone Phillips · Assistant Director
Taylor Tucker · Assistant Choreographer
Connor Munion · Associate Scenic Designer
Cole McCarty · Associate Costume Designer
Coby Chasman-Beck · Associate Lighting Designer
Jason Crystal · Associate Sound Design
Connor Wang · Assistant Sound Design
Dave Maier · Fight Consultant
Merri Sugarman, CSA · Casting
James McGregor · Production Assistant
Allison Thomas · Co-Producer for Universal Theatrical Group
Ben Euphrat · Swing
Ben is an actor, musician, and musical director. Recent credits include Once with 42nd Street Moon, The Siegel at City Lights, Shakespeare in Love at Marin Theatre Company, the SF and off-Broadway productions of Ideation with SF Playhouse, Project Ahab at Central Works (nominated for Outstanding Music Direction), Mirandolina at Center Rep, Twelfth Night at Shotgun Players, and HIR at the Magic Theatre. Ben has worked extensively in film and commercial, and has studied improv in LA with the Groundlings and IO West. His debut solo album a portrait of a girl is out now. beneuphrat.com
Alex Falberg · Lester
Originally from Kharkov, Ukraine, Alex is over the moon to have attended Bela Fleck’s second annual Blue Ridge Banjo Camp last summer. His credits include The Hunter and The Bear (Writers Theatre), The Tale of Despereaux and The Old Man and The Old Moon (The Old Globe), and Pericles (Theatre for a New Audience). His television credits include Daredevil (Netflix) and The Men Who Built America (History). He is excited to be in development with Caroline Watt on an upcoming holiday show called Juanita and the Shepherd. (For more information, please see the bio for PigPen Theatre Co. above.)
Ben Ferguson · Furlough
Ben was born and raised in Austin, Texas and received his BFA in Acting alongside the rest of PigPen at Carnegie Mellon University before moving to New York City. He has since created and performed shows with PigPen such as The Nightmare Story, The Mountain Song, The Old Man and The Old Moon, and The Hunter and The Bear. @benstagramferguson (For more information, please see the bio for PigPen Theatre Co. above.)
Logan Foster · Swing / Dance Captain
Logan is so excited to be a part of this wonderful production. Berkeley Rep debut! His favorite credits include One Man, Two Guvnors (Francis) and All Shook Up (Chad) both at Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts. BFA Elon ‘19. Insta: lofo_1
Curtis Gillen · Louise / Most High Head Mouse
Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Curtis has appeared off Broadway in The Old Man and The Old Moon and in Pericles directed by Trevor Nunn. His other PigPen credits include The Mountain Song, The Nightmare Story, and most recently The Hunter and The Bear at Writers Theatre in Chicago. His film credits include Ricki and the Flash and HairBrained. He graduated with a BFA in Acting from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was destined to find these lifelong collaborators. (For more information, please see the bio for PigPen Theatre Co. above.)
Natasha Harris · Swing
Natasha is grateful to be working with PigPen Theatre Co. on this brand new production. Her regional credits include The Cocoanuts, The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, and Into the Woods (Utah Shakespeare Festival); Three Sisters, Peter Pan, Hairspray, and West Side Story (Pacific Conservatory Theatre); Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (McCoy Rigby Entertainment); and The All Night Strut! (Oregon Cabaret Theatre). She received her BA in Drama at UC Irvine. natasha-harris.com @lilnutsy
Dorcas Leung · Despereaux
Dorcas is making her Berkeley Rep debut. She was recently seen as Gigi Van Tranh in the Broadway revival of Miss Saigon. Soon after, she toured the country in the 1st National Tour of Hamilton as Schuyler Sister Standby performing Eliza, Angelica, and/or Peggy/Maria at select shows. Regional favorites include St. Louis MUNY (Les Misérables), Casa Mañana (Gigi in Miss Saigon), Dallas Theater Center (Cosette in Les Misérables, Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol), Goodspeed Opera House (Ursula in Bye Bye Birdie), Barrington Stage Company (Little Red in Into the Woods). TV/film: Bull, Madam Secretary. @dorcas
Ryan Melia · Librarian / Prisoner
Ryan’s other shows created by PigPen include The Old Man and The Old Moon, The Nightmare Story, The Mountain Song, and The Hunter and The Bear. He also performed with PigPen in Pericles at Theatre for a New Audience, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn. (For more information, please see the bio for PigPen Theatre Co. above.)
Betsy Morgan · Miggery Sow / Antoinette / Queen Rosemary
Betsy is returning to The Tale of Despereaux after appearing in the world premiere at The Old Globe. She earned a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for her portrayal of Pirelli and Beggar Woman in Barrow Street Theatre’s Sweeney Todd. Betsy was in the original Broadway companies of The King and I (revival), Les Misérables (revival), A Little Night Music (revival), The Little Mermaid, and High Fidelity, and the original off-Broadway companies of First Daughter Suite (The Public Theater), Found (Atlantic Theatre), The Fantasticks (revival), and Bernarda Alba (Lincoln Center). Regionally, she’s been seen in The Who’s Tommy (Denver Center), Carousel (Arena Stage), Rain (The Old Globe), and Giant (Signature Theatre). Betsy re-created the role of Fantine in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Misérables. She was seen on television in Flight of the Conchords.
Matt Nuernberger · Botticelli
Matt is a Chicago native, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University. His previous credits include The Tale of Despereaux (The Old Globe); Pericles directed by Trevor Nunn (Theatre for a New Audience); A Little More Alive, Pocatello, and Tape (Williamstown Theatre Festival); The Old Man and The Old Moon (The New Victory Theater, The Old Globe, Writers Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, ArtsEmerson, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, City Theatre, The Gym at Judson); and The Hunter and The Bear (Writers Theatre). His film credits include Ricki and the Flash, and his voiceover credits include commercial work for Raid. (For more information, please see the bio for PigPen Theatre Co. above.)
John Rapson · Roscuro
John is thrilled to be making his Berkley Rep debut with this extraordinary show and team. John was last seen in the Bay Area as the D’Ysquith Family in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, a role he originated on the first national tour. Broadway/off-Broadway credits include Sweeney Todd (Beadle Bamford), Les Misérables (Grantaire/Bamatabois), and Nassim. Regional credits include Oklahoma! (Jud Fry, Sacramento Music Circus), The Play That Goes Wrong (Robert, regional premiere at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), The Drowsy Chaperone (Aldolpho, Goodspeed Musicals), Disney on Classic (with the Orchestra Japan). John is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Arya Shahi · King Phillip / Fight Captain
Arya was raised in Tucson, Arizona. He is a member of the #BARS Workshop at The Public Theater in New York, and he co-created the poetry visual-art project @inboxart on Instagram. Alongside his dearest friends, he co-created PigPen’s The Hunter and The Bear, The Old Man and The Old Moon, The Mountain Song, and The Nightmare Story. His additional credits include the film Ricki and the Flash directed by Jonathan Demme, off Broadway’s Pericles directed by Sir Trevor Nunn, off Broadway’s Exile directed by Lisa Peterson, and the video game 1979 Revolution directed by Navid Khonsari. He received his BFA in Acting from Carnegie Mellon University. aryashahi.com, @aryashahi (For more information, please see the bio for PigPen Theatre Co. above.)
Yasmeen Sulieman · Princess Pea / Merlot
Broadway: Beautiful. National Tour: Little Shop of Horrors. Off Broadway: Junie B. Jones. Lincoln Center: The Scarlet Pimpernel. TV: Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Hi-5 (TLC). Yasmeen is a singer/songwriter who has written and performed overseas, with releases on MCA, Defected, Nervous Records, and Strictly Rhythm, among a few others.
Dan Weschler · Stained-Glass Knight
Dan grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania before studying acting at Carnegie Mellon University. After receiving his BFA, he moved to New York. His theatre credits include The Hunter and The Bear (Writers Theatre), The Old Man and The Old Moon (Williamstown Theatre Festival, The New Victory Theater, Writers Theatre, The Gym at Judson), The Mountain Song and The Nightmare Story (PigPen Theatre Co.), Pericles (Theatre for a New Audience), and American Realism (The Invisible Dog, San Diego Museum of Art). (For more information, please see the bio for PigPen Theatre Co. above.)
The cast and stage managers are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Suffused with magic and mischief…The cast is universally strong, all pluck and game and heart, never condescending to its story or its audience but living fully in whimsy…The action continually and seamlessly shifts from human actors to puppets…Ensemble members pick up banjo, accordion, guitar seemingly on the fly, and their song lyrics pithily communicate character…But perhaps most joyous of all is how Despereaux gently exposes, upends and reframes some of the fairy tale conceits of earlier childhoods.”
San Francisco Chronicle
There are so many charming, astonishing, inspiring moments in PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Tale of Despereaux you have to stop logging them and simply realize that, from beginning to end, this is exactly the show we need this holiday season…This 90-minute treat is chock full of appealing songs with a Celtic pulse, performed with gusto by the ensemble. The voices are glorious (especially Yasmeen Sulieman’s princess, Betsy Morgan’s Miggery Sow and John Rapson’s Roscuro), and the stage is alive with beautiful images. There’s a strong theme of light and dark built into the story, so the lighting by Donald Holder takes on significance beyond the beautiful way it illuminates the rough-hewn timber and crockery of Jason Sherwood’s castle set…At the opening-night performance (Monday, Nov. 25), Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre was filled with children, and it’s a testament to the performers on stage (and to the parents) just how well behaved the audience was. Co-Director Marc Bruni and his ensemble manage to keep up the pace of the show without ever making it feel rushed. There’s time for ballads and introspection and shadow puppetry. And it’s absolutely enchanting the way the company uses stuffed mice and rats to convey the size difference between the animal characters and the human characters, all the while keeping us emotionally invested in every inter-species interaction. The Tale of Despereaux is neither corny nor sappy the way entertainment aimed at all ages can sometimes be. Rather, this is rich, emotional, rewarding theater that pulls us all into its story of the littlest guy choosing to make the biggest difference.”
A charming and inventive musical! Beautifully realized…As loose-limbed a feel as the show boasts, though, this is an intricately staged and smartly conceived retelling of DiCamillo’s story about a mouse born with rampant curiosity, surprisingly large ears and an unusual lack of yellow-bellied-ness…The show’s look is trademark PigPen, with resourceful, often enchanting imagery on Jason Sherwood’s soaring storybook set. Lydia Fine and Nick Lehane’s shadow sequences and puppetry are elemental to the storytelling.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune
It’s like watching child geniuses at play!”
The New Yorker
Indie folk band and theater troupe PigPen Theatre Co. have transformed the story into a dazzling musical adventure filled with humor and rhapsodic song…The inventive staging directed by Marc Bruni and PigPen is filled with marvelously clever touches, such as the mice and rat characters deftly shifting back and forth between the human performers and shadow sequences and puppets designed by Lydia Fine and Nick Lehane. Dorcas Leung is irrepressibly eager and optimistic as Despereaux, bursting with gumption and all the braver because of his fear. Betsy Morgan is resignedly melancholy as his French mother and wonderfully funny as palace servant Miggery Sow, thick-headed and plain-spoken to a fault, but also upbeat and optimistic when she’s not being reminded of her lowly state. Yasmeen Sulieman is a kind and graceful Princess Pea. John Rapson is a delight as Roscuro, short for Chiaroscuro, a rat with an unusual yearning for light. Sly and suave, he comes off as positively dashing, with an imposing operatic singing voice. With music direction by Christopher Jahnke, the songs are wonderfully catchy, lovely and moving with devilishly clever lyrics…This Despereaux isn’t just a worthy adaptation. It’s the most thoroughly enjoyable iteration of this story all around.”
Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
There’s no better holiday treat for adult and children than PigPen Theatre Co.’s astoundingly magical, eye-popping musical delight The Tale of Despereaux, a must-see inventive old-fashioned fairytale parable so very in tune with our current time. Old-fashioned in its themes of love, courage, bravery and redemption, the creative team from PigPen infuse the work with cerebral humorous dialogue and a Broadway score for the adults with stunning visuals, acrobatics and shadow puppetry that had the little girl seated behind me gasping in wonder…The witty script is full of charm and wisdom…An indie band by trade, PigPen has written a delightful score that embellishes the storyline and with their unusual string and percussions instruments, sounds both modern and, well- fairytale-ish.”
Enchanting! Despereaux delights with its ingenious props, inventive visual effects, and a grand fairy-tale set! While the story is simple enough for children to enjoy, it’s adults who will most appreciate this world premiere musical.”
San Diego CityBeat
If there’s a child in your life in whom you want to foster a love of the literary arts, this is a great show to take them to. And you will find the child in you excited, delighted, and satisfied!”
San Diego Jewish World
PigPen Theatre Co. is already a phenomenon”
Behind the scenes: “A Knight Needs Nothing”
PigPen Theatre Co. and cast member Dorcas Leung headed into a recording studio to perform Despereaux’s signature song “A Knight Needs Nothing” from The Tale of Despereaux.
“We loved every second of it”
Audiences of all ages adore PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Tale of Despereaux!
Official trailer: PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Tale of Despereaux
Get a sneak peek at PigPen Theatre Co.’s critically acclaimed new musical that’s “exactly the show we need this holiday season.”
Behind the scenes: “With a Needle and Thread”
PigPen Theatre Co. and cast members Yasmeen Sulieman and Betsy Morgan headed into a recording studio to perform the show-stopping number “With a Needle and Thread” from The Tale of Despereaux.
Behind the scenes: Meet PigPen Theatre Co.
PigPen Theatre Co. shares their origins, aesthetic, and a peek at rehearsals for The Tale of Despereaux.
Behind the scenes: The Tale of Despereaux meet and greet
Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer reveals what she loves about sharing PigPen Theatre Co.’s adaptation of the beloved award-winning book.
Behind the scenes: The Tale of Despereaux meet and greet
Co-director Marc Bruni talks about why he loves PigPen Theatre Co.’s adaptation of the beloved award-winning book.
Behind the scenes: The Tale of Despereaux meet and greet
Arya Shahi talks about the genesis of PigPen Theatre Co. and the inspiration for their latest show.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Photos may not be used for commercial or personal use without written permission from Berkeley Rep, and unauthorized alteration, reproduction, or sale of these images is strictly prohibited. Journalists and other members of the media, please visit our online press room.
Teen Night gives local teens the opportunity to meet for dinner and a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team before attending productions at an extremely discounted price.
- Friday, November 22, 2019
Teen Night begins at 6pm at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre. Learn more and reserve your space.