The Broadway musical Pippin is old enough that in its original production the part of Grandma Berthe was played by Irene Ryan – Granny on “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show for you trivia buffs. Forty years after its debut in New York, you have to wonder what it’s doing at Diversionary Theatre, kicking off the University Heights company’s new season. The coming-of-age fairytale written by Roger O. Hirson with very-‘70s-sounding music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz may not be dated, but neither does it seem daring.
At Diversionary, under the direction of James Vasquez, daring gets the old college try. With the stage no more than an industrial backdrop of metal, found objects and TV monitors, and much of the ensemble in steampunk attire, this “reimagined” Pippin makes a case for relevancy. A couple of enduring tunes, “Morning Glow” and “Corner of the Sky,” plus the steady presence of Courtney Corey as Leading Player, the outrageousness of Luke Jacobs in cross-dress, and ambitious choreography (also by Vasquez) are definite assets. As is the fact that none of the cast seems to take the story too seriously ... until a decidedly earnest finale.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat