Youth theatre is a weird thing to critique. On the one hand, it is by nature less polished than most professional shows and is often less innovative. On the other hand, it’s hard not to like it, because it feels so much like a passion project where the performers are enjoying themselves. Add that to a great musical and throw in some extremely well executed tech with some impressive choreography and you have the Forth Children’s Theatre’s performance of
A more than enjoyable way to spend my afternoon, and these kids should be extremely proud.
Pippin is pure fun for musical theatre fan. It’s a story about the son of Charlemagne, Pippin, who wants to find his purpose in the world, but it’s as much a story about stories as it is anything else. It’s about Pippin’s agency in the world, and his deciding voice in his own story. But the real joy in Pippin is how brilliantly it condenses the musical theatre archetype. You’ve got a massive introductory choral number, the most famous “I Want” song of all time, a fun comedy number by an old bit player, a surprising twist halfway through and a romance plot that comes into fruition in the final third. Pippin distills all that down to its most basic form, which is good for a company who may be less experienced. The difficult parts about this show, however, are that it requires a lot of intense choreography, which this group did extremely well. By professional standards, a lot of it was very similar, using the structure of a circle far too often, but it might just be the most cohesively good amateur choreography I’ve ever seen.
The production values were also impressive. The costuming was reminiscent of the Broadway revival aesthetic, however with a much more monotone, black and white colour palette. The tech was similarly high quality, although more standard and functional than artistic.
Unfortunately, despite all these fantastic elements, the performances were simply not polished enough to carry the day. While they were good youth theatre quality actors, the vocals were under par and the acting was often flat. Furthermore, as good as the choreography was, the execution tended to vary. And this is what you’d expect of a youth theatre show. Good, but not great. That said, a more than enjoyable way to spend my afternoon, and these kids should be extremely proud.