The Charing Cross Theatre was the perfect venue for this latest revival of Pippin. Written in 1972 with Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a Book by Roger O.Hirson. The piece itself is very interesting as it follows a mystery performance group who tell the story of Pippin who longs to find something to fulfil his life.
This piece can be interpreted in different and interesting ways. Director Steven Dexter has placed Pippin in a 60’s, flower power environment, where you are immediately transported to somewhere in the middle of nowhere where the performance group are. As soon as you walk into the space you are engulfed by 60’s tapestries hanging all over the theatre walls. And incense burning which further transported the audience away from London in July to somewhere in America in 1967. The sound design by Keegan Curran provides an atmospheric soundscape, however at times lyrics were lost. Aaron J Dootsons lighting design created a hazy and vibrant world. A collection of fairy lights floated above the audience and was used very well. It reflected the mood and tone of the scene.
The extremely talented cast of 8 provide really strong acting performances, impressive vocals and athletic dancing which is sharp and dynamic. The Choreography by Nick Winston bursts off the stage with excitement and has a few nods to Bob Fosse who directed and choreographed the original production. Most of the cast are onstage at all times, they all have an ensemble character and their principal character they play. A simple piece of costume and maybe a prop transforms them into their character. Ryan Anderson provides the audience with a Pippin who is in constant need of more, Ryan really leaned into this and paid off in the stark finale. Ian Caryle interacts with the audience with his performance of the Leading Player who is engaging at all times. All of the cast members had a brilliant relationship with the audience. The transverse set up really allowed for this as the audience are so close to the actors.
Steven Schwartz’s music and lyrics are brilliant works of art in the Musical Theatre cannon. Features songs such as: Magic to Do, Corner of the Sky and Morning Glow. This production hits the right marks to create goosebump worthy moments. The band of two manage to create a sound which feels right for the style of production. Chris Ma’s Musical Direction is crisp and the cast of 8 produce a wonderfully large sound. At times Roger O’Hirsons book can be a bit of a slog but this pays off in the Finale which is truly an electric moment of theatre. The production never becomes static and zips by with a run time of 2 hours and 20 minutes including interval. With the exciting and athletic dancing, and the strong vocals and acting performances, this Pippin is very enjoyable to watch and a feast for all senses.
Pippin continues at the Charing Cross Theatre until 5th September with further information and tickets here, https://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/pippin
Reviewer: Eugene Griffin
Reviewed: 14th July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★