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)
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Game of Thrones season 4 episode 2 breaks torrent record as fans watch online
The original Breaking Bad ending saw every character die
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'
Paul Walker's brothers stand in for actor’s final scenes for Fast & Furious 7 movie
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for auction...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Big Bang Theory to get special Star Wars episode with help from Lucasfilm
- 3 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 4 Pharrell Williams 'Happy': British Muslims dance to song in video
- 5 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews