Pippin Is Just A One-Song Future King

Pippin, Southwark Playhouse ★★☆☆☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 19 months ago
Pippin Is Just A One-Song Future King Pippin, Southwark Playhouse 2

Pippin is a 1972 musical with a legion of die-hard fans, including devotees of its composer Steven Schwartz's smash-hit Wicked, who think his back catalogue must be as good.

Sadly, in Jonathan O'Boyle's derivative, student-y production at Southwark, it isn't. The book is a mediaeval parable from the reign of Charlemagne (742-814) and lost in the mists of time. When revived in America it comes with bucketloads of expensive pyrotechnics and edgy circus artistry. Here, not.

Fans praise the music: there are some nice songs, some of them a bit new-agey and reflective like Godspell or Hair. However, even the folkiest item in Schwartz's score is jacked up to 'Defying Gravity' pitch, and lyrics are crucified by the over-amplification and distortions of the sound system.

What shafts this production royally in its fishnet and suspender-clad buttocks, is a slavishly dated adherence to Bob Fosse style costume and choreography as though no other interpretation could illuminate the story. Yes, he's an original co-creator, but if you want to pay homage to the celebrated one-trick pony, do Chicago or Cabaret: at least they have hummable tunes and a plot you can follow without programme notes.

Pippin, Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway, SE1, £20-£25. [Monday-Saturday] Until March 24.

Last Updated 05 March 2018