PIPPIN by Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz, directed by Gabriel Barre (Mirvish/Goodspeed). At the Royal Alexandra (260 King West). Runs to Dec 3, Tue-Sat 8 pm, mats Wed, Sat-Sun 2 pm. $35-$94. 416-872-1212, www.mirvish.com. Rating: NN Rating: NN
You could argue that Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz is riding high again with the success of Wicked . A touring version of the show, again brought in by Mirvish Productions , is a hit in Toronto, running for the rest of the year. So it makes sense that the Mirvishes would also import an earlier Schwartz success, Pippin , in a production by Goodspeed Musicals .
But if much of Wicked soars, this Pippin sinks. With a book by Roger O. Hirson , the show looks at the restless, idealistic Pippin ( Joshua Park ), son of the medieval ruler Charlemagne (former Monkee Micky Dolenz ), who wants to find something meaningful in life – to soar like a bird, flow like a river, that sort of thing.
That kind of synthetic 60s experience defines much of the show's tone, though a bit of postmodern framing and a devious narrator ( André Ward ) give it a bit of edge.
Too bad this version, directed by Gabriel Barre , focuses on circus stunts and magic tricks – in other words, on the surface and the visual. There are no real characters here, no sense that anyone onstage has feelings.
What's worse, the choreography for this extremely lively show is drab. The original production was staged by the legendary Bob Fosse, though that doesn't mean that someone can't invent different staging and choreography that's just as invigorating. But when choreographer Mark Dendy inserts a few minutes of Fosse style in one number, he shows how anemic his own work is in the rest of the show.
There's physical activity on the surface of this touring show, but it's mostly an empty production with cardboard characters the actors fail to colour in. Only in the last few minutes is there a hint that the company could do more, provide some chill behind the surface glitter. This uninvolving Pippin is mostly pap.