A version of the musical first performed in the 1970s, Pippin has a certain campy charm. The alarming plot twists and bizarre events perhaps have a surreal, avant-garde effect on the Broadway stage – but on an amateur level the production has a danger of becoming merely ridiculous.
The essential conceit is the reimagined life of Pippin, son of Charlemagne, following his forays into war, education and love in search of resolution. The story is told by a troupe of travelling performers (in the vein of the commedia del’arte tradition) led by the enigmatic Leading Player, who try and steer Pippin onto the right track – or throw him off it.
It is all incredibly cheesy, plus the production is unfortunately peppered with technical issues rather betraying its amateur nature. However, there were some standout performances that really carried the musical and every note and jump is imbued with so much enthusiasm it is difficult to dislike.
The actor playing the Leading Player would make a fantastic Emcee in Cabaret; his choreography is generally on point and he has a charismatic swagger, particularly in the opening number. Other strong performances come from the actresses playing Fastrada and Lewis, who generate most of the laughs in the show. Fastrada’s rendition of ‘Spread A Little Sunshine’ was a highlight, conveyed with a real bitchy glee.
The actor portraying Pippin came across as quite naïve and unsure, which worked well at the beginning of the production and in his character’s moments of uncertainty, though in general the performance was perhaps a bit immature for a lead role.
An exuberant performance of an often overlooked (in the UK, at least) musical: decidedly fluffy but spreading a little sunshine nonetheless.