Theatre is making its come back, and what better way to start than with an electric performance of the musical Pippin at the Garden Theatre. This new socially distanced performance makes one tingle with excitement to be back in the spectators seat to witness creative theatre. Pippin doesn’t disappoint.
There have been countless productions of Pippin since Fosse’s 1972 premiere, each brings a new interpretation to this universal story. Pippin longs to find true excitement and purpose in his life, but runs up empty after many attempts at discovering fulfilment. It has always been a brilliantly written show from Stephen Schwartz who undeniably writes grand scores and Roger O. Hirson’s book allows magnificent artistic freedom for direction. Steven Dexter has suceeded to create an intimate and passionate version of this splendid show. While Nick Winston has created sharp, fast paced choreography that shows off each actors athlete-like ability. The famous fosse choreography is subtly seen in this adaptation, but Winstons style is flashier and travels round the small stage speedily. None of them wear microphones in this small space, which is a brave choice. Some words are lost however, especially when Ryan Anderson (Pippin) is expected to sing in a box leap.
It feels necessary now to speak about how they are dealing with the current guidelines, which is taken care of very responsibly. The outdoor theatre has separated chairs and benches, as well sanitisation when needed. Dexter is skilled at creating a justified and natural way for the actors not to touch, which makes this frustrating reality barely noticeable.
The unusually small cast of six fill the small traverse stage with a pent up energy of five months in lockdown. They exude passion which is delightful to see after all this time at home. They all multirole brilliantly, jumping from one persona to the next. Except Pippin (Ryan Anderson) and the leading narrator (Tsemaye Bob-Egbe). Joanne Clifton stands out for her true triple threat ability, as well as her comedic timing. She is mesmerising and holds the audience in a the palm of her hand when she sings. Anderson is also bewitchingly charismatic. He sings the difficult parts with impressive ease, while athletically dancing round to the stage. Tanisha-Mae Brown, Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, Harry Francis and Dan Krikler also bring the show to life and make Pippin a fun filled evening of talented performers.
While one might miss the full orchestra and dramatic staging for this elaborate musical, which is played on a keyboard in this production, it’s an outstanding production with the facilities they have. They are transforming a small garden into a haven of theatre that is refreshing and thrilling to see.