WORTH A LOOK?: ***1/2
WHEN: Saturday 4 September, (matinee), runs to 3 October 2021
The reason we’re here is because the music and lyrics for Pippin were written by Stephen Schwartz who is behind musical Wicked which re-opens in the West End at London’s Victoria Apollo Theatre on 15 September 2021.
- Read on for reasons including how we felt Charing Cross Theatre was a most unwelcoming destination and we wouldn’t recommend a visit there
Our titular hero Pippin joins a performance troupe to tell the story of his relationship with his father Charlemagne and the war they wage on the Visigoths. Pippin debuted on Broadway in 1972, winning 5 Tonys a year later including Best Director for Bob Fosse, yet was written in 1967 and seemingly reflects on Vietnam and the futility of war.
We fell in love with the 2013 Broadway revival soundtrack and it boasts 1 song, No Time At All, which is so good that we’re amazed it is not better known. In it Pippin’s grandmother Berthe encourages him to appreciate what he has despite the depression he finds himself in. She sings: ‘For when your best days are yester, the rest are twice as dear’ and later in the hugely anthemic chorus: ‘Oh, it’s time to start living, time to take a little from the world we’re given, time to take time, ’cause spring will turn to fall, in just no time at all ..’
It’s a rousing exhortation to make the most of what you have and be appreciative which strikes a particular chord in these Covid times. Andrea Martin won a Best Featured Actress Tony as Berthe in the Broadway revival and the staging (see below) goes to town with a trapeze theme which accentuates the lyrics that, although old, Berthe’s not about to give up the ghost just yet.
Conceived in lockdown with a minimal cast, this production fails to make the most of No Time At All and, although Genevieve Nicole is gamely giving us Mrs Overall-on-steroids, it’s a performance that would be better suited to an actress of more experienced years.
The cast unfurl a banner with the lyrics on during the show’s best song and we might have been inclined to stand up and dance at this matinee if the theatre’s bar hadn’t curiously been closed. There was a member of staff pouring champagne there for those with premium front row tickets when we put our head around the door asking what time it would open and were told: ‘6pm.’ A good half an hour after this show finished.
We’ve always found this venue to be generally unwelcoming and this is accentuated this afternoon on an unusually hot September day when the staff apparently had very little to do bar sip from their own drinks.
Back to the show and it’s genuinely multi-layered with us thinking most of the second half was absolute nonsense before a redemption at its close that yanked it from its flurry of tie dye, patchouli oil and dreamcatchers into a world frighteningly present day.
We’ve knocked off half a star for the venue and its staff but the cast here is strong. We enjoyed the in-the-round storytelling emphasising the around-the-campfire nature of the storytelling with the cast banging drum-like on boxes.
Ryan Anderson’s Pippin is engaging and he’s an actor to look out for, Ian Carlyle’s Leading Player gave us both the charisma and chills required for the role and Alex James-Hatton’s Lewis brought much-needed comedy.
Despite his tender years Daniel Krikler who travels across the river next to play in The Normal Heart at the National convinced as the lead’s father and we enjoyed Pippin’s flirt with bisexuality offered by the acrobatic Jayden Vijn.
An interesting production then, beautifully lit and 1 deserving of its recent run extension although bring your own refreshments if you’re looking to fully enjoy the celebratory nature of some scenes and don’t expect much of the venue’s staff.