Tag Archives: Maeve Black

Pippin – 4 Stars

Pippin

Pippin

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 28th February 2018

★★★★

“Tessa Kadler … nails the comedy but melts the heart with the purity of her singing voice”

 

Written in 1972, “Pippin” uses the ‘play within a play’ concept to recount the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for meaning and significance in his life. The fourth wall is broken from the outset in what is quite a stunning opening as the players, lead by the formidable Genevieve Nicole as ringmaster-cum-emcee, launch into the prologue number, ‘Magic To Do’.

Jonathan Boyle’s upbeat production at Southwark Playhouse lives up to this promise. Most of the time. That is no mean feat, as in less able hands this show could so easily fall apart under the weaknesses of the book. The story is derived from the real life medieval characters; ‘Pepin’ and his father ‘Charlemagne’, although there is no historical accuracy beyond the use of the names. Charting Pippin’s rite of passage the narration purposefully feels improvised, but the technique grates after a while and any intended poignancy is lost in the confusion.

On his quest for fulfilment, Pippin joins the army fighting for his father, but then leads a political rebellion against him and usurps the throne. Still unfulfilled he flees to the country and sets up home with a widow and her son. But he is still unsatisfied. One could share Pippin’s frustration if this haphazardly lazy fable wasn’t rescued by Stephen Schwartz’s score. What Schwartz brings to the stage is fresh and modern but also recognisable in its influences, tipping his hat to Gilbert and Sullivan, Bernstein, Kander and Ebb, Motown, and adding his own pop sensibilities. William Whelton’s masterful choreography is unmistakable in its homage to Bob Fosse who choreographed and directed the original Broadway production.

Jonathan Carlton’s Pippin is part ‘boy band’ and ‘boy-next-door’, a charming mix that fits the role, but the show stealer is Tessa Kadler as the widow, Catherine, who nails the comedy but melts the heart with the purity of her singing voice.

But overall the initial promise of magic isn’t quite sustained. The comedy doesn’t always work: there is a feeling of trying too hard which is disengaging and which conflicts with the absurdity of the piece. The company should embrace the nonsense, or dispense with the plot entirely. The sideshow quality of Maeve Black’s design adds a touch of seediness and sexiness and Aaron J. Dootson’s lighting is spot on ‘Cabaret’. As a revue this would be the perfect show. The all singing, all dancing cast are faultless and with the eight piece band led by musical director, Zach Flis, it is a quite spectacular evening.

Just as Schwartz’s lyrics proclaim, the committed cast do perform magic. It is quite a conjuring trick to bring to life Roger O. Hirson’s flimsy text. The music has soul, but the story lacks heart.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Pippin

Southwark Playhouse until 24th March

 

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

 

Adam & Eve … and Steve

King’s Head Theatre

Opening Night – 28th March 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“A Heavenly joy to watch”

 

After a hugely successful Edinburgh Fringe run last year, Adam & Eve .. and Steve, makes its London premiere at the King’s Head. The tale of how God created Adam and Eve gets a biblical makeover in this musical comedy that is a heavenly joy to watch.

God’s (Michael Christopher) plan to create Adam (Joseph Robinson) and Eve (Hayley Hampson) goes deliciously wrong when the mischievous Beelzebub (Stephen McGlynn) interferes, and God creates Steve (Dale Adams) instead of Eve.

Adam is delighted with Steve (who thinks he is a woman called St. Eve) and all is harmonious until the two new BFFs are confronted by Eve herself.   A ménage a trois for the modern era ensues, and the future of humankind hangs in the balance as everyman Adam, loveable OTT Steve and jealous Eve try to sort out their tangled emotions…

The stage design (Maeve Black) beckons us into the Garden of Eden; all green and shimmering in dappled light with the sounds of the creatures of the forest all around. We first encounter the Devil himself,  a rather egotistical Beelzebub who tells us from the start ‘it’s all about him’.

We then meet Adam, a handsome fellow who appears to have been created with a charming Welsh valleys accent. With a bit of meddling from Beelzebub, before the curiously Scouse tongued Eve gets created, along comes Steve, who instantly takes a shine to the buff Adam.

When Eve finally makes an appearance, she too falls for Adam and what ensues is some lovely physical and verbal comedy scenes between the love rivals, with poor Adam stuck forlornly between the two. Throw in some forbidden fruit and a bit of dancing with the Devil and we’re all set for a fun filled night.

Brought bang up to date with some topical  references to Trump, Sturgeon and the like, Adam & Eve and Steve effortlessly (and occasionally inexplicably) cleverly combines humour, ancient history and modern day issues.

The many songs (accompanied throughout on the piano by the angelically attired MD Dean Austin)  are fairly pleasant and well sung, but not all particularly memorable. There are a couple that do stand out – one about ‘buying furniture with you’ (a witty parody of stereotypical gay couples) and one about marriage sung by Adam and Eve, which is a gem packed full of tongue in cheek euphemisms.

All the cast are splendid but the titular trio played by Robinson, Hampson and Adams, stand out for their vibrancy. For his wonderful mannerisms and characterisation, Dale Adams gets a special mention for his portrayal of the ever effervescent Steve.

With some lovely one liners throughout (‘it’s fine for Sweden but not for Eden’), charming song and dance routines (choreography by Francesca Goodridge, who also directs the show) and an energetic and enthusiastic cast, Chandler Warren’s ‘Adam & Eve … and Steve’  is a true delight.

 

 

is at the King’s Head Theatre until 29th April

 

 

www.KingsHeadTheatre.com

 

 

Click here to read our interview with star of the show, Steve himself – Dale Adams