Opening Night – PIPPIN – ‘The Return of Music Theatre to Australia’

4 months ago
Declan Dowling

The four time Tony Award® winning 2013 revival of the 1972 Stephen Schwartz musical ‘Pippin’, opened at The Lyric Theatre Sydney last Thursday. And Honestly, what are you expecting to read here?– of course it was goddamn amazing, it’s the high energy, high skill, dazzling, glowing, spectacular Broadway revival of Pippin!! It was incredible!!
For those not familiar; Pippin is a ‘Fossie-esque-Circus-Fever-Dream’ full of dance, acrobatics, drama and a sensational score, centering around the story of ‘Pippin’ (Ainsley Melham) the son of King Charlemagne (Simon Burke) as he goes out into the world to find purpose and fulfillment in his life.

[2013 Broadway Cast]

The Stellar [although controversially mostly imported] cast of Pippin, was driven and led by its incredibly tight ensemble who propel the evening into a world of magic from the very second they appear on stage, showing amazing and adept physical control, vocal skill and overwhelming amounts of acrobatic talent. Both the players and Audience alike are led through the evening by the show stopping Gabrielle McClinton, reprising her role from the Broadway revival, as ‘The Leading Player’ — Gabrielle shows a command not just over the stage but over the engagement and attention of every person in the room as she sings, dances and grandly announces her way through the evening’s events. Ainsley Melham was charming and just understated enough to be perfectly cast in the title role of Pippin. The rest of the cast included a rather self-indulgent Simon Burke as King Charlemagne, Leslie Bell’s deliciously sinister, smooth moving and sexy Fastrada, Lucy Maunder as Cathrine, Euan Doidge as Lewis, an unexpectedly acrobatic Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Theo played respectively by Andy Alexander, George Holahan-Cantwell, William Wheeler & Ryan Yeates.

Design for Pippin is a confronting and confusing one when broken down, and it always has been since 1972; Barnum meets Camelot meets Bob Fosse. A blend of elements from such vastly different areas of the theatre spectrum you wouldn’t think that they would work, or for that matter that they had been thought through at all. That is until you experience it in production, and something magical clicks and all the elements fall into place and make a vast deal of sense as story, visuals and music alike are interwoven with symbolism and amount to a sensational pay off in the Act II Finale.

[2013 Broadway Cast]

Simply electric through and through, Pippin was not only a delight to watch but to experience, in the beautiful Lyric Theatre after a long hiatus from the glorious Australian Theatrical World. A word to the wise; Book your tickets. Today. Right now!!

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