PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Tale of Despereaux

PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Tale of Despereaux

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.

Creative team

PigPen Theatre Co. · Book / Music / Lyrics / Co-Directors
Marc Bruni · Co-Director
Jennifer Jancuska · Choreographer
Christopher Jahnke · Music Director and Additional Arrangements
Jason Sherwood · Scenic Design
Anita Yavich · Costume Design
Donald Holder · Lighting Design
Nevin Steinberg · Sound Design
Lydia Fine · Shadow Sequences and Puppetry Co-Designer
Nick Lehane · Shadow Sequences and Puppetry Co-Designer
Tara Rubin Casting · Casting
Libby Unsworth · Production Stage Manager
Hsiu-I Chiquita Lu · Assistant Stage Manager
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 · Casting
James McGregor · Production Assistant
Allison Thomas · Co-Producer for Universal Theatrical Group


Ben Euphrat · Swing
Alex Falberg · Lester
Ben Ferguson · Furlough
Logan Foster · Swing / Dance Captain
Curtis Gillen · Louise / Most High Head Mouse
Natasha Harris · Swing
Dorcas Leung · Despereaux
Ryan Melia · Librarian / Prisoner
Betsy Morgan · Miggery Sow / Antoinette / Queen Rosemary
Matt Nuernberger · Botticelli
John Rapson · Roscuro
Arya Shahi · King Phillip / Fight Captain
Yasmeen Sulieman · Princess Pea / Merlot
Dan Weschler · Stained-Glass Knight

Leaping manSuffused 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.”

Theater Dogs

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.”

Broadway World

Watch now

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.

See photos

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Photos courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

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