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Pippin at the Music Theatre Company | Theater review

Stephen Schwartz’s trippy-dippy early work gets a solidly enjoyable revival.

Photograph: courtesy of the Music Theatre Company
Joey Stone and Andrew Keltz in Pippin

Pippin is, on its surface, a royal coming-of-age tale. Beyond that, it’s a grab bag of showtunes slammed onto a plot. The musical follows young, directionless prince Pippin (a solid Andrew Keltz) as he searches for meaning in life, trying sex, war and even a brief stint as king on for size.

Little of Pippin’s trajectory makes a lick of sense. Act I, for example, ends with Pippin killing his father, Charlemagne, and gaining his crown. Act II includes Charlemagne popping back to life to rescind said crown. This protracted monarchic detour seems to exist solely to make room for the rousing coronation number, “Morning Glow.” Then, of course, there’s the out-of-left-field auto-da-fé finale.

If Pippin never quite achieves a credible narrative, nor does it ever lose our attention. The musical numbers—from “Simple Joys” to “Kind of Woman” (sung here by the sardonic, appealing Jess Godwin)—are relentlessly catchy, and the 1972 play’s flower-power anti-war sensibility is good-spirited, if vague.

Any Pippin rests on the merits of its Leading Player, who narrates the story and slides somewhere between Pippin’s mentor and his nemesis. Joey Stone handles the task well: His player is enticing, sexy and hell-bent on showing us a good time (at one point he even chastised me for not enthusiastically clapping along; fair enough). Redish’s production is largely enjoyable. The numbers that take place in the audience’s face far outshine those that take place upstage, where the proscenium occasionally swallows sound and movement.

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