Sedos might be an amateur company but their production of Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin is certainly anything but. A musical that’s seen a significant rise in interest in recent years following a 2013 Broadway production and the London production at the Southwark Playhouse, Pippin is definitely a show that requires skill on all fronts to succeed. The tale of Pippin (Joe Thompson-Oubari), son of King Charlemagne centres around his longing for something “fulfilling” whilst the meta ensemble of Players frame the narrative, constantly reminding us of the big finale.
“the band are pitch-perfect”
Director Chris Adams’ decision to remove any particular setting and instead opt for a distinct neutrality allows the production to revel in its fourth-wall breaking madness and create some clever moments of technicality. His direction also pushes the production to indulge in the darker moments of Schwartz’s story. Thankfully the cast have capabilities second to none of any west end ensemble I’ve seen recently that both support and develop Adams’ directorial vision.
Of course, a musical is nothing without a strong instrumental component. From the opening notes of the first number, it was clear that Musical Director Sophie Wright has lead with clarity and the band are pitch-perfect. Not only has Wright and her assistant Ed Curry managed to coax the very best out of the band but also out of the vocals in the cast. Every ensemble harmony is full bodied and every solo sung with both the musical technicality and emotion needed to carry the narrative of each number.
A standout performance comes from Corin Miller as the compère-esque Leading Player with powerhouse vocals and the comic timing to match, which is best shown every time she interrupts the show to complain and to re-direct the action according to “what the script says”. Joe Thompson-Oubari as Pippin has expertly managed to chart the arc of boyhood to manhood and again, has the vocal range and subtlety needed to fill the shoes of this leading role. Some excellent support is cast in Kris Webb’s delightfully callous and camp King Charlemagne and Charlie Welch’s white-picket fence housewife Catherine.
“this cast deserve your time”
When a show relies so heavily on the construction of a spectacle, its design places itself at the forefront of our attention. Steven King’s simple design sees banners falling left and right, two staircases ever moving around the stage and this reviewer was left wondering how many surprises could yet be squeezed in. Plenty is the answer. Where King’s set is simple, Oliver Levett’s lighting is equally effective but possibly over ambitious. Whilst it adds to the already high production values, there are moments where the basics seem to fall by the wayside. Some characters, when downstage, are momentarily shrouded in darkness before hitting future marks upstage. Nevertheless, as far as lighting designs go; there’s little else to find at fault.
Needless to say, Pippin is a triumph. This is a show where, more than most, this cast deserve your time and the production company deserve your hard-earned money. If you’re looking for something off the beaten track then this comes highly recommended.
Pippin is playing at The Bridewell Theatre (Sedos’ Residence) until the 19th May.
Tickets are available HERE
Image: Michael Smith