"Deliciously dark Stephen Schwartz revival"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 10/05/18

Vaudeville, magic, comedy, romance – all present and correct in this dark, intimate Pippin.
The strolling players are monochrome cabaret performers who’ve seen better days, perhaps. But turn out to be well-drilled, energetic dancers; Paul Brockland Williams’ choreography, inspired by Bob Fosse, the show’s co-creator, is a highlight of this impressive stripped-back production.
A first-rate band, almost hidden from view up on the rear-stage balcony, is conducted by Ed Curry, with MD Sophie Wright on keyboard.
Two mobile sets of steps, the ironic Glory, the pit of fire, sybaritic writhing, Brechtian banners, classy curtain calls all add to the entertainment. The fourth wall is frequently – sometimes tiresomely – demolished.
Excellent work from the two leads: Joe Thompson-Oubari – pulled into the spotlight from row A – makes an engaging, everyman prince and misfit, while Corin Miller gives a powerful Leading Player, belting out the numbers beautifully and ruthlessly manipulating her troupe.
Vicky Terry is Pippin’s ordinary housewife stepmother, with Paul Nicholas Dyke brilliantly funny as her strong, stupid son Lewis. Kris Webb is the pantomime tyrant Charlemagne.
Berthe, the exiled granny, played by Annie Houseago, gets one of the best numbers – No Time At All – superbly staged here as a sing-along, the words appearing first from a basket, on a sheet later used for Pippin’s bed of despair, and then on individual placards.
Our hero finds fulfilment of a kind with a young widow – Charlie Welch – and her son. Matthew Cise alternates the role with Jake Purton; not only does he get his extended ending, but he also spends the interval alone on stage with his paperwork and his pet duck.
It’s 45 years since I saw Pippin in the West End, and while the themes are certainly still current, the style and the devices can feel a little dated. Chris Adams’ compelling production, especially at the end, cuts through the tricks and the whimsy to achieve a genuinely moving piece of drama.

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