With restrictions easing in NSW (and other parts of the country), I was fortunate enough to attend the opening night of the very first musical in our new COVID-normal world, Pippin.
Now, before I get into the nitty-gritty of what going to a post-apocalypse live event is like, let me first start out by talking about the musical itself.
The high-flying, death-defying hit Broadway musical premiered in Sydney at the Sydney Lyric Theatre at The Star on December 3.
With a beloved score by Oscar and Grammy winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell),
Pippin tells the story of a young man (Ainsley Melham, Aladdin) at a crossroads in his life. Does he follow in the footsteps of his father (Simon Burke, Les Misérables), one of the most powerful men in the land? Or does he strike out on his own, to find his own “corner of the sky”?
A play within a play, the story is told by a travelling troupe of actors and acrobats (called ‘Players’), directed by the mysterious Leading Player (Gabrielle McClinton, Pippin on Broadway). Like a vaudeville act, the Players both act out the roles of the story and speak
directly to the audience. It’s wacky, it’s wild and it’s a whole lot of fun.
The stand-out for me was Kerri-Anne Kennerley (yes, the one formerly of Studio Ten) who stood out as Pippin’s grandmother. Her solo song was jaw-droppingly good and for someone who is 67-years-old, she has no fear hanging above the audience upside on a trapeze. Incredible.
While it was amazing to be back in a theatre, there were some serious restrictions. Firstly, getting a drink at a nearby bar was next to impossible for walk-ins, so if you’re intending on getting a pre-show aperitif, make sure you book in advance.
The arrival times were also staggered, and depending on your seat allocation, you had a 20-minute window to walk around a winding cattle-yard, ensuring to sign in on your phone and pick-up a very snazzy Pippin mask to wear at all times inside the foyer and the theatre. So chic!
Masks are actually a mandatory accessory as per the venue’s COVID safety measures and as the theatre was almost full, it was a small concession in order to be around people again.
But perhaps the more awkward portion of the post-COVID experience was using the loo at intermission. Another cattle-yard line was set up. Men on the left and women on the right. I was too busy looking at my phone after the first act and found myself in the wrong queue, but everyone was surprisingly friendly and showed me the way.
A COVID marshall then told me when I was allowed to walk through the door of the bathroom and once inside, everyone smiled and laughed at just how weird it felt. More uncomfortable though was the long walk out of the bathroom with everyone in the line having a good look. It was a confronting experience, to say the least.
While the experience was certainly different, I am so grateful to be able to go to a show again and experience the spectacle with one of my nearest and dearest. If you’re looking for a fun night out, then Pippin is certainly one to add to your list — even if it’s just for the experience of a live show again.
Performances of the hit Broadway musical Pippin, the first large scale musical theatre production to open in Australia since COVID-19 led to theatres closing down in March, is playing exclusively at the Sydney Lyric at The Star from 24 November to 31 January only. Find out more information and book your tickets here.