It’s been a while since I have been to the theatre what with the current climate and for my first musical of 2020 and my first visit to The Eagle Garden Theatre, I got to see Pippin.
Pippin follows a group of players telling the story of young prince Pippin, who is searching for his place in the world. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse, who directed the original Broadway production, also contributed to the libretto and created the choreography.
Like Schwartz’s musical, Godspell, the show is framed as a performance by a troupe of hippie players but – with touches of meta-theatricality – the characters, or the actors themselves, try to break free of the narrative forced upon them. The storytelling never slows, performed with energy and clarity by the multi-talented cast alongside music from musical director Michael Bradley.
Tsemaye Bob-Egbe is a charismatic and authoritative Leading Player, taking control of the narration. Ryan Anderson is excellent as the tile character Pippin, restless and hungry to explore life, performing some of the biggest hits such as “Corner of the Sky”, “Morning Glow” and “Extraordinary”. His Pippin is tender and vulnerable but with a passionate streak, it is typically a character that the audience struggles to find empathy with, but in the hands of Anderson there’s no such problem, this Pippin is one to watch.
The show is very much an ensemble piece, with various other parts played strongly by Harry Francis (Lewis and Theo), Dan Krikler (Charles), Tanisha-Mae Brown (Catherine) and Strictly Come Dancing 2016 winner Joanne Clifton who adds to the comedy as the manipulative queen Fastrada and Pippin’s vampish grandmother, Bertha. Joanne excels in the show-stopping number, “No Time at All”, encouraging us to sing along on the chorus through our face masks, while making comically clear the verses are for her alone!
This is the first time Schwartz has consented to the show being performed with such a small cast and director Steven Dexter repays the trust with a production that is as well drilled as it is necessarily compact.
The show’s roots in the late 1960s is emphasised by the “hippie” costumes and tie-dyed motifs on the theatre’s walls, designed by David Shields. Also thanks to Nick Winston’s choreography the dancing uses every inch of courtyard space, without feeling cramped.
The production has charm, bags of energy and transports you away for 90 minutes, just what we need in these times.
Pippin plays at the Eagle Garden Theatre in Vauxhall, London until 11th October: for more information see online www.pippinmusical.co.uk