Australian Dance Reviews

Thank God for theatre: ‘PIPPIN’ reopens Broadway in Australia

The case of 'PIPPIN'. Photo by Brian Geach.
The case of 'PIPPIN'. Photo by Brian Geach.

Sydney Lyric at The Star, Sydney.
3 December 2020.

After what seemed like an eternity, Sydney audiences are once again eagerly sitting in theatres for the first large scale musical theatre production to open in Australia since the COVID-19 closures: PIPPIN!

The exclusive limited-edition season of the acclaimed Broadway hit at Sydney Lyric at The Star is a joyous way to invite us back and remind us all of why theatre is such an important thread in the fabric of society.

Ainsley Melham as Pippin. Photo by Brian Geach.
Ainsley Melham as Pippin. Photo by Brian Geach.

PIPPIN is a spectacle with the perfect portion of satire, sizzle, silliness, and sparkle, and is host of cheeky surprises.

The cast take us on a journey as the young Prince Pippin searches to discover himself and find his “corner of the sky”, sharing his story through a play within a play. The Players, made up of talented, energetic and comical acrobats and dancers, tell the story through a barrage of death defying, high flying tricks and frivolity, where we gasp one minute and laugh the next, all in the most flamboyant of costumes. Like a vaudeville act, the Players both act out the roles of the story and speak directly to the audience.

The choreography is a feast of Bob Fosse and Chet Walker flair, brought to life this tour by the talented Mitchell Woodcock, fresh from Dance Captain for Chicago. You sense that Woodcock and the cast must have had a lot of fun in rehearsals, and even more fun when they began to don their strange and fabulous costumes. If you love classic Fosse jazz, and acrobatics to boot, this is a must-see show for you. 

Matt Jenson, Gabrielle McClinton and Bayley Edmends in 'PIPPIN'. Photo by David Hooley.
Matt Jenson, Gabrielle McClinton
and Bayley Edmends in ‘PIPPIN’.
Photo by David Hooley.

Gabrielle McClinton as the Leading Player is a ringmaster of sorts, taking charge of telling the story and keeping Pippin in check. McClinton was flown over from the USA to reprise the role, after playing it so exceptionally on Broadway. She takes command of the stage with both grace and fire.

Ainsley Melham, who plays Pippin, was scheduled to be busy reprising his leading role in Aladdin on Broadway at present, but one silver lining of the current pandemic is that it brought him home, allowing him to delight us as Pippin instead. He plays the role with such authenticity that one tangibly feels him mature and grow as the story builds. 

Gabrielle McClinton and the cast of 'PIPPIN'. Photo by David Hooley.
Gabrielle McClinton and the
cast of ‘PIPPIN’. Photo by David Hooley.

A highlight is the performance of charming Australian media icon Kerri Anne Kennerly, who is witty, and let’s say “nimble” in the role of Berthe. I will leave it there as not to ruin any of the surprises. Leslie Bell as Fastrada is sheer perfection.

With final seats just released for performances up to 31 January 2021, there is still time to get your tickets to PIPPIN. Do not miss it this summer. PIPPIN is a wonderous celebration of the magic of theatre and just what we need after the tensity of 2020.

By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.

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