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)
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Husband creates spreadsheet detailing wife's 'excuses' for turning down sex
- 2 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 3 Saneie Masilela, 9, marries Helen Shabangu, 53 years his senior, for the second time
- 4 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 5 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley star in trailer for new Alan Turing film The Imitation Game
Latitude 2014, review: A huge success that shows festival is maturing nicely
It looks like Krusty the Clown is the major Simpsons character death
Russell T Davies wants your 'sexcapades' for new web series Tofu about modern sex culture
Star Wars 7: Plot details 'leak', with sequel's opening sequence and premise revealed
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains