Review: Pippin, Charing Cross Theatre

Steven Dexter’s production of Pippin transfers to the Charing Cross Theatre with some nifty choreography

“I don’t know anything about ducks”

I was low-key obsessed with Godspell as a kid, a production at the school where one or other of my parents worked winning me over to its charms early on. But Pippin, also written by Stephen Schwartz one year on in 1972, entirely passed me by and even as a grown-up kid, it isn’t a show that has ever won me over either time I’ve seen it.

Hence I gave Steven Dexter’s boutique production a miss when it opened in chilly English summer evenings at the Garden Theatre last year but now that it has resurfaced indoors at the Charing Cross Theatre, I gave it a go. Here, a strong cast give it their all with some nifty choreography but my heart remains untouched.

Dexter sets his hippyish production in the middle of the summer of love, David Shields’ set dressing like a Camden market shop on crack, and so influences of Hair snake in like clouds of incense. Notions of rebelling against authority and pushing against the norm work well in this context, as does the joyful freedom of expression. 

Nick Winston’s inventive choreography is perfectly suited in the first half here, where it fills the traverse stage with delights. And vibrant character work from an ensemble condensed to 8 (2 more than they had outdoors) is highly entertaining, particularly when Genevieve Nicole embraves her inner latter-day Debbie Reynolds as Berthe. 

And Ryan Anderson and and Ian Carlyle both impress as the ever-jousting Pippin and the Leading Player respectively, it really isn’t their fault that their existential conflict isn’t a story that I ever seem to connect to. What is an incontrovertible joy though is the musical direction of Chris Ma, live musical theatre has been missed.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Edward Johnson
Pippin is booking at the Charing Cross Theatre until 14th August

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