This bright and colourful production of the musical is dazzling to watch- even if the story feels a bit flimsy.
Confession time: I have never actually seen Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson’s musical on stage and the only song that I remembered hearing was ‘Corner in the Sky’ – which meant I was extremely curious to see what this production of Pippin was like.
Stepping into the theatre, I was immediately transported into the 1960’s courtesy of the set design by David Shields which even wraps itself into the audience giving the production a really intimate feel. With these colourful surroundings, it is no wonder that Steven Dexter’s take on Pippin is filled with fun elements, that counteracts the story which sees the title character in desperate search for fulfilment and purpose in his life, while being manipulated by Leading Player.
The main problem for me is the story which seems to be slightly flimsy and doesn’t do enough to draw the audience’s attention – it doesn’t have to be flashy but to put the central focus on a character who spends a lot of time feeling unfulfilled could have had a lot more depth about it. This being said, the audience leaves the theatre feeling more appreciative and thoughtful about the positive things we have got going on in our own lives.
But it has to be said musically there is plenty to be enjoyed. In particular, I loved the playfulness of Genevieve Nicole’s rendition of ‘No Time At All’ that allows the character Berthe to break through the fourth wall and get the audience involved in a pleasing way. Elsewhere, ‘Love Song’ has a wonderful charm about it, particularly when it is performed with great feeling by Ryan Anderson as Pippin and Natalie McQueen as Catherine – the lighting is exquisite in this number and the romance of the scene feels heightened because of it.
What also makes this production a delight is Nick Winston’s joyful and lively choreography that is the perfect match for numbers such as ‘Magic to Do’ and ‘War is a Science’ being two standout moments. Each move is so perfectly placed to make the most of the space available and looks so seamless that makes it a pleasure to watch.
The cast all deliver really spirited performances that keep the audience thoroughly engaged. In particular, Ian Carlyle is wonderfully charming as the Leading Player as he attempts to control the direction that Pippin’s life takes. The wonderful subtleness of the way in which he manipulates Pippin is compelling to watch. Elsewhere, Genevieve Nicole as Berthe has a great flair for comic timing and it would have been wonderful to have her more involved as her performance is bursting with personality that makes the audience smile during her one number ‘No Time At All’. Natalie McQueen as Catherine is sweet and earnest, while showcasing her beautiful vocals as heard during her rendition of ‘I Guess I’ll Miss the Man’.
While the story of Pippin didn’t really grab me, this production was still a really enjoyable experience to watch being filled with so much joy and exuberance that it is hard not to be swept away by it all.
By Emma Clarendon
Pippin continues to play at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 3rd October.