Book by Roger O. Hirson. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Directed by Robert Bell. South Coast Choral and Arts Society. Victor Harbor Town Hall. 8-22 October, 2016.

Sometimes a piece of musical theatre is so unusual, so stimulating, and so risky, it generates immense satisfaction in an audience and gratitude from a reviewer, in spite of certain flaws on display. Pippin is one such experience.

Debuting director Robert Bell has delivered a production to be proud of. Pippin is the name of the show's young hero, and Jack Doherty is an ideal embodiment of the appealing protagonist with much to learn. His is a story told unconventionally, making bold use of black humour and sensual imagery, as well as employing sophisticated self-comment through the narration of the Leading Player, brought to life with energy and magnetism by Emily-Jo Davidson.

The important figures in Pippin's evolution are portrayed by standout performers like Byron Godwin-Knott (a young man blessed with the looks and charisma of Michael Hutchence), Kim Bell (resplendently doing diva duty while leading an audience sing-along with formidable authority), Jack van Rhoda (remarkably confident and focused, considering his age), and Minnie Broad (completely engaging and absolutely delightful).

Jacqui Maynard's expert musical direction of the orchestra has resulted in a lively and supple sound that, in and of itself, certainly satisfies the senses; the trouble is that it also has a tendency to overwhelm the singers, despite them all wearing microphones. Davidson's vocals at times seem oddly pitched, as if the score were being played in a register that was unsuitable for her. Occasional sighting of stage crew was momentarily distracting, but possibly intentional.

The ensemble chorus, as well as being strikingly costumed and made-up, are simply but solidly choreographed, providing a level of visual texture whenever they appear. Lighting and set design tend to be basic but are never really inadequate.

This is a show that is far easier to enjoy than it is to describe - so if you like to be taken on an unpredictable adventure, one that's a little weird, a little edgy, and a little gem, treat yourself to Pippin.

Anthony Vawser

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