Musical Theatre PIPPIN National Youth Theatre
Friday 25 August 1995
Compared to Godspell, the setting is positively modern. Roger O Hirson's slangy book tells the eponymous story of the son of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne in "780 AD or thereabouts". In true Seventies style, our hero sets about finding "something completely fulfilling", or as Schwartz puts it in Pippin's first song, "got to find my corner of the sky". Belittled by his overambitious stepmother (an accomplished Jayne Nesbitt) and body- built stepbrother, Pippin goes to war to impress his father, only to end up killing him for his tyrannical use of power. Realising that he is falling into the same traps, he runs away to continue his journey of discovery. He finds and discards love and domesticity and even gets to play a scene with a dead duck. You have to hand it to Schwartz - anyone who can tempt fate and risk a dead duck headline has some nerve.
In many ways, Pippin is like Bernstein's Candide re-scored for a rock band (with some fabulously dated Seventies arrangements). In both shows, you simply don't care enough about the naive leading character. Pippin's saving grace and biggest liability is the circus-like frame introduced by original director/choreographer Bob Fosse, who was widely regarded as pivotal to the show's success. Characters comment on the action and shape the storytelling into a revue-like format. The result is something all too knowing, with characters addressing the audience and undercutting the sentiment of the sometimes powerful music.
Edward Wilson's production has more energy than it knows what to do with. Reprising Fosse's trademark hatwork, bump-'n'-grind hips and outstretched palms is not the same as creating real choreographic shape and dynamism. Despite impressive work, the huge, drably costumed chorus looks like a cross between a Fellini film and a Madonna video. It's as if everyone is afraid that if they stop being busy for a second, everything will come crashing down about their ears. As ever, simplicity works best. "On the Right Track" is just that - a fun, neat duet for the nimble, thoroughly engaging Timothy Baker as Pippin and the Mephistophelian Leading Character (a slick, energetic Chris Jarman) which showcases the performers' genuine potential.
The moral of the story is that happiness is in your own backyard. By the curtain call, the cast look pretty happy. And why not.
n To 2 Sept. The Bloomsbury Theatre (0171-388 8822)
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 SAG Awards: Fake applause track interrupts Reese Witherspoon
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after Wembley Stadium rant
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Game of Thrones season 5: IMAX releases new trailer with first look footage of Tyrion Lannister
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks