Last week, Alex Lodge joined the cast of Steven Dexter’s hit immersive production of Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin, which has twice extended its limited season at the West End’s Charing Cross Theatre, where it now must end on 3 October 2021. We caught up with Lodge to find out what the show means to him and how excited he is to be back onstage with an awe-inspiring cast.
Lodge, who was starring as Ledoux in Bat Out Of Hell in the 2021 US/UK tour when covid struck, made his West End debut in The Book of Mormon, where he understudied and played Elder Price at over 200 performances. His other theatre credits include Jon in tick, tick…BOOM! (Offie Nomination Best Male Performance in a Musical, Bridge House Theatre), Louis Charles Hurt in Fanny & Stella (Garden Theatre), Frederick Fleet in Titanic (Princess of Wales, Toronto) and Bobby C in Saturday Night Fever (UK tour).
In Pippin, he plays Charles and also covers Leading Player and Theo.
Set in the ‘Summer of Love’ of 1967, the musical follows Pippin, a young prince with extraordinary dreams and aspirations on his quest to find passion, fulfilment and meaning in a joyful and life-affirming revival.
How has it been for you as a performer during the pandemic?
I found the start of the pandemic really tough. As COVID first entered our lives in March 2020, I was in rehearsals for the long-awaited UK, USA and Australian tour of Bat Out Of Hell (a show I’d wanted to do ever since I first saw it).
We’d finished our final rehearsal room producers’ run, and then received the news about the lockdown two days before we were due to fly to the USA to start tech. At the time, we all thought we’d have between four to six weeks off whilst everything blew over, and then get straight back to it. As four to six weeks became four to six months, we quickly realised this was going to be a far tougher mountain to climb than anyone had first anticipated.
I’m at my best mentally when I’m busy
As an actor, I’ve actually been exceedingly lucky over the pandemic. I’m at my best mentally when I’m busy, and fortunately, I’ve had a few opportunities over the last 18 months to get back on stage – the first of which was with Pippin’s director Steven Dexter, in a wonderful piece called Fanny & Stella, which was the inaugural production of the Garden Theatre in Vauxhall.
The whole thing was a massive experiment at the time, working out how to stage a whole show socially distanced, how backstage traffic works in such a small space, etc. It took great vision and tenacity from Dex and the producers (Peter Bull and Richard Lambert) to take a massive risk on something when no one had any idea if it would work, if it would be any good, if audiences would come – or if we would be plunged into another lockdown halfway through the run!
Luckily, we avoided any such catastrophes and enjoyed a great couple of weeks playing to packed (albeit socially distanced) houses… or benches, as was the case at the Garden.
After that, I was lucky enough to join the company of A Christmas Carol at the Dominion Theatre at the beginning of December 2020. That, sadly, ended prematurely when the Government announced the third lockdown on the day of our press night. It was really sad – although not entirely unexpected as we were all very aware of the possibility of being shut down as we went into it. This, in turn, made us all really appreciate each and every performance as if it were our last.
Most recently, I was lucky enough to work at Opera Holland Park playing Chick Clark in Wonderful Town and have spent the last few months setting up my own company producing a few concerts and gigs in my hometown, which has been really fun. My mum liked those the best.
Outside of work stuff, I largely spent most of my lockdown time eating Jaffa cakes, watching Netflix, and spending countless hours on my PS4. Time well wasted, if you ask me.
Did you know of Pippin before being cast?
What drew you to the show?
Funnily enough, the success of Fanny & Stella at the Garden Theatre is what initially prompted the same team behind that show to stage an earlier version of what has now evolved into this production of Pippin. I went and fell in love with it straight away.
The fact that the entire show is now told as a flashback in Pippin’s head gives it much darker undertones than it’s had previously.
It quickly becomes a cautionary tale of what happens when we let our darkest, most destructive notions take over
As an audience, we witness all aspects of what has led Pippin to the show’s dramatic climax from a fresher, more focussed point of view. And, for me, it quickly becomes a cautionary tale of what happens when we let our darkest, most destructive notions take over and we stop being able to find joy in the simplest of things in life.
It’s a great piece, with a fantastic score and Nick Winston’s choreography is a wonderful homage to the show’s original director/choreographer Bob Fosse. So getting to dance this style again after so much time off has been really exhilarating. (And equally exhausting. My poor knees and hamstrings don’t know what’s hit them!).
What is it like to be joining this cast?
Exciting, terrifying, humbling – I could probably list a hundred different adjectives to describe it! It’s such an ensemble piece and this company have developed a truly unique bond as a group – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried that a new person entering such a close, tight-knit unit that understand and trust each other so deeply might be difficult. However, right from my first day in the building, all my fears were instantly laid to rest as the entire company were incredibly warm and welcomed me with open arms as a new member of the tribe.
I’ve known Ryan Anderson for years now, so getting to hang out with him and watch one of your good friends be a superstar on stage every night is really special. The level of talent in this show is off the charts across the board. Getting to listen to Natalie McQueen’s voice, watch Genevieve Nicole hilariously bring the house down and witness close up the masterclass and utter genius that is Ian Carlyle’s Leading Player every night makes turning up to work something I really look forward to every day.
Being in awe of your friends and colleagues is a feeling I’ll never get tired of. I feel deeply privileged to be performing alongside them.
What is it that makes theatre so important after the last 18 months we’ve had, and specifically a show such as Pippin?
Theatre has the power to do things no other art form can. In what is rapidly becoming a more divided, closed-off world, it brings us together with complete strangers to live completely in the moment for a few hours. No screens, no phones (hopefully) and no distractions. One centralised shared experience that reminds us what it is to be human. Who doesn’t need that every now and again?!
After nearly two years of almost exclusively consuming all of our creative content on screens rather than in person, it’s become easier now more than ever to feel isolated, completely lost and constantly in search of how to better ourselves without having any idea where to start – exactly like Pippin.
We’re all our own worst enemies at times, and have all been guilty of being the architects of our own destruction in life at one point or another. By observing Pippin make the choices (and, I would argue, mistakes) that he does throughout the show, we are all forced to look into the metaphorical mirror and observe something new about how we manage ourselves in times of crisis.
For me, it’s a show about living and dealing with depression and learning how to control the demons that live inside your head – a subject matter that is more important today than it ever has been before.
Why should people come see this new version of Pippin?
Reinventing classic musicals that people know and love is no mean feat – and one I think Steven Dexter, Nick Winston and Michael Bradley have done brilliantly.
It’s a great team maintaining the show (special shoutout to Ricky McFadden, our Company Stage Manager and all-round superhero for constantly going above and beyond to make sure everything runs smoothly), with a cast that are extraordinarily brilliant – onstage and off – that really have to be seen to be believed.
It’s a show that will make you laugh, cry, challenge, question and above all remind you to appreciate the simple joys in life
I sincerely hope I can live up to the high standards left by my predecessor, the incomparable Dan Krikler. Charles’ boots are certainly big shoes to fill – in both the literal and metaphorical sense – but I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to give it a go.
Pippin is a great night out at the theatre. It’s a show that will make you laugh, cry, challenge, question and above all remind you to appreciate the simple joys in life that we all too often take for granted. It’s certainly done that for me, anyway, and I hope it will for you too.
Pippin runs until 3 October 2021 at the Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NL, with performances Tuesdays to Sundays at 7.30pm, matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets from £25-49.50. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!