By Ann Reily
---- — In “Pippin,” a young prince searches for meaning in his life, wondering where he fits in.
At the age of 12, Brendan Callahan of Rowley has found that the theater is what suits him best — at least so far.
“It’s really what I like to do,” he said, though he admits he was apprehensive about taking the leap at first.
With the encouragement of friends and his parents, Michelle and Tom, he auditioned for his first show two years ago, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” at the Neverland Theatre in Beverly. He won the part of a news reporter.
“That turned out great and I liked it, so I kept doing more theater,” said Brendan, who attends Shore Country Day School in Beverly. Roles in “Beauty and the Beast Jr.,” “The Little Mermaid Jr.” and “Aladdin Jr.” soon followed.
Now he is taking on his biggest role yet, starring as Pippin in the Boston Children’s Theatre production playing tonight through Sunday at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield.
“It’s kind of overwhelming because I’ve never had a part this big before,” he said. “I was Aladdin in ‘Aladdin Jr.,’ but Aladdin is not in as much of the show as Pippin.”
The musical is being presented by the theater’s Summer Studio Three program and features a cast of 58 students who range in age from 9 to 14. The cast is split into two groups that each perform in three of the six shows. Brendan, who shares the role of Pippin with Evan Dell, 10, of Manchester, N.H., will appear tomorrow night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday night.
This is Brendan’s second year attending the Studio Three program, which runs for four weeks and includes intensive acting, dance and musical theater training, in addition to rehearsals. Last year, he played Emmett in “Legally Blonde.”
When Brendan found out that this year’s show was going to be “Pippin,” he didn’t know anything about it. Luckily, the musical was just revived on Broadway, so he was able to go to New York City and see it in May.
“My first show in New York was ‘Beauty and the Beast’ when I was 5 or 6, and I really liked it,” Brendan said. “Every year or two, we kept going back and seeing more shows because I love watching theater.”
“Pippin,” which won four Tony Awards last month, including Best Revival of a Musical, is a sort of unconventional play within a play that features an acting troupe telling the tale of the boy on a quest for fulfillment.
“He tries to be a politician. He tries to explore the normal life. He does all these different things until he finally finds what he wants to do with life,” Brendan said. “It’s all about finding what’s right for him.”
Pippin sings about this quest in “Corner of the Sky.” Other musical numbers include “Magic to Do,” “Glory” and “Morning Glow.”
Though Brendan says he still gets nervous, each show he has done has helped him become a lot more comfortable in the spotlight.
“I definitely do get nervous but definitely not nearly as much as my first or my second show,” he said. “Now I’m used to the whole dynamic of performing in front of an audience.”
If you go What: "Pippin." When: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Where: The Governor's Academy, 1 Elm St., Byfield How: $20 and $15 for adults, $15 and $10 for students. For more call 617-424-6634, ext. 222, or visit www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org LOCAL ACTORS The two casts of "Pippin" feature students from 38 communities and Germany, including these five from North Andover: Hannah Onofrio, Elizabeth Packard, Kate Packard, Danielle Page, and Alyssa Peltonovich.