Pippin (musical)

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Pippin
Pippinalbum.jpg
Original Cast Recording
MusicStephen Schwartz
LyricsStephen Schwartz
BookRoger O. Hirson
BasisFictitious life of Pippin the Hunchback, son of Charlemagne
Productions1972 Broadway
1973 West End
1981 Canadian television
2009 Los Angeles
 
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Pippin
Pippinalbum.jpg
Original Cast Recording
MusicStephen Schwartz
LyricsStephen Schwartz
BookRoger O. Hirson
BasisFictitious life of Pippin the Hunchback, son of Charlemagne
Productions1972 Broadway
1973 West End
1981 Canadian television
2009 Los Angeles

Pippin is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse, who directed the original Broadway production, also contributed to the libretto. The musical uses the premise of a mysterious acting troupe, led by a Leading Player, to tell the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for meaning and significance.

The protagonist, Pippin, and his father, Charlemagne, derive their characters from two real-life individuals of the early Middle Ages, though the plot presents very little historical accuracy regarding either. The show was partially financed by Motown Records. As of July 2011, Pippin is the 31st longest-running Broadway show.[1] Pippin was originally conceived by Stephen Schwartz as Pippin, Pippin, a student musical performed by Carnegie Mellon's Scotch'n'Soda theatre troupe.[2]

According to musical theatre scholar Scott Miller in his 1996 book, From Assassins to West Side Story, "Pippin is a largely under-appreciated musical with a great deal more substance to it than many people realize...Because of its 1970s pop style score and a somewhat emasculated licensed version for amateur productions which is very different from the original Broadway production, the show now has a reputation for being merely cute and harmlessly naughty; but if done the way director Bob Fosse envisioned it, the show is surreal and disturbing."[3] Ben Vereen won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the Leading Player in the original Broadway production.

Contents

Synopsis

The play begins with a Leading Player of a troupe and the accompanying actors in various costume pieces of several different time periods, establishing the play's intentionally anachronistic, defamiliarized, unconventional feel. Channeling the style of Bertolt Brecht, Hirson breaks the fourth wall, and the Leading Player and his troupe speak directly to the audience. They invite members of the crowd to join them in a story about a boy prince searching for fulfillment ("Magic to Do"). They reveal that the boy who is to play the title character is a new actor. Pippin tells the scholars of his dreams to find where he belongs ("Corner of the Sky"), and they happily applaud Pippin on his ambitious quest for an extraordinary life. Pippin then returns home to the castle and estate of Charlemagne (King Charles), his father. Charles and Pippin don't get a chance to communicate often, as they are interrupted by nobles, soldiers, and courtiers vying for Charles' attention ("Welcome Home"), and Charles is clearly uncomfortable speaking with his educated son or expressing any loving emotions. Pippin also meets up with his stepmother Fastrada, and her dim-witted son Lewis. Charles and Lewis are planning on going into battle against the Visigoths soon, and Pippin begs Charles to take him along so as to prove himself. Charles reluctantly agrees and proceeds to explain a battle plan to his men ("War is a Science").

Once in battle, the Leading Player re-enters to lead the troupe in a mock battle using top hats, canes, and fancy jazz as to glorify warfare and violence ("Glory"). Fosse's famous "Manson Trio" is performed by the Leading Player and his two lead dancers in the middle of this number. This charade of war does not appeal to Pippin, and the boy flees into the countryside. The Leading Player tells the audience of Pippin's travel through the country, until he stops at his exiled grandmother's estate ("Simple Joys"). There, Berthe (his grandmother, and Charles's mother, exiled by Fastrada) tells Pippin not to be so serious and to live a little ("No Time At All"). She sings, "Oh, it's time to start livin'. Time to take a little from this world we're given. Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall in just no time at all." Pippin takes this advice and decides to search for something a bit more lighthearted ("With You"). While he initially enjoys these meaningless sexual encounters, he soon discovers that relationships without love leave you "empty and unfulfilled."

The Leading Player then tells Pippin that perhaps he should fight tyranny, and uses Charles as a perfect example of an unenlightened tyrant to fight. Pippin plans a revolution, and Fastrada is delighted to hear that perhaps Charles and Pippin will both perish so that her beloved Lewis can become king. Fastrada arranges the murder of Charles, and Pippin falls victim to her plot ("Spread a Little Sunshine"). While Charles is praying at Arles, Pippin murders him, and becomes the new king ("Morning Glow"). However, after petitions from the masses, Pippin realizes that neither he nor his father could change society and had to act as tyrants. He begs the Leading Player to bring his slain father back to life, and the Leading Player does so. At this point in the currently licensed production, the Leading Player then introduces Pippin to The Finale.

Pippin is left without direction until the Leading Player inspires him ("On the Right Track"). After experimenting with art and religion, he falls into monumental despair and collapses on the floor. Catherine finds him on the street, and is attracted by the arch of his foot ("And There He Was") and when Pippin comes to, she introduces herself to Pippin ("Kind of Woman"), a widow, with a small boy, Theo. From the start, it is clear that the Leading Player is concerned with Catherine's actual attraction to Pippin—after all, she is but a player playing a part in his yet-to-be-unfolded plan. At first, Pippin thinks himself above such boring manorial duties as sweeping, repairs, and milking cows ("Extraordinary"), but eventually he comforts Theo on the sickness and eventual death of his pet ("Prayer for a Duck") and warms up to the lovely Catherine ("Love Song"). However, as time goes by, Pippin feels that he must leave the estate to continue searching for his purpose. Catherine is heartbroken, and reflects on him (much to the Leading Player's anger and surprise) ("I Guess I'll Miss the Man").

All alone on a stage, Pippin is surrounded by the Leading Player and the various troupe members. They all suggest that Pippin complete the most perfect act ever: the Finale. They tell Pippin to jump into a box of fire, light himself up, and "become one with the flame." Pippin is reluctant at first, but slowly loses resistance ("Finale"). He is stopped by his natural misgivings and also by one actress from the troupe—the woman playing Catherine. Catherine and her son Theo stand by Pippin and defy the script, the Leading Player, and Fastrada. Pippin comes to the realization that the widow's home was the only place where he was truly happy ("Magic Shows and Miracles") "...I never came close my love". Having experimented with every possible path to fulfillment, he feels humbled, and realizes that maybe the most fulfilling road of all is a modest, ordinary life. He comes to the conclusion that, while "settling down" may at times be mundane and boring, "if [he's] never tied to anything, [he'll] never be free." After removing the sets, lighting, makeup, and costumes from the stage (to no success at dissuading Pippin), The Leading Player becomes furious and calls off the show, telling the rest of the troupe and the orchestra to pack up and leave Pippin, Catherine, and her son alone on an empty, dark and silent stage: "You try singing without music, sweetheart!" Pippin realizes that he has given up his extraordinary purpose for the simplest and most ordinary life of all, and he is finally a happy man. Well, perhaps. When Catherine asks him if he feels like a compromiser or a coward, he says no. But he does feel "trapped," and that, so he says, "isn't too bad for the end of a musical comedy."

Alternate ending

The currently licensed edition of Pippin has a slightly different ending. After the troupe throws their gloves at Pippin, and he avers his contentment with a simple life with Catherine, Theo remains on stage, picks up a glove and sings a verse of "Corner of the Sky", after which the Leading Player and the troupe return onto the stage. The Leading Player reaches a hand out to Theo. Pippin and Catherine return, watching in fear, unable to do anything. The light on Theo becomes brighter, and presumably, the cycle continues. Blackout. Current productions vary between the two possible endings, though Schwartz himself has expressed his preference for the newer ending.[4]

Songs

Though Pippin is written to be performed in one act and its single-arc structure does not easily accommodate an intermission, many performances are broken into two acts. In the two-act version currently licensed by Musical Theatre International, the intermission comes after "Morning Glow", with an Act I finale – an abridged version of "Magic to Do" – inserted after Charles's resurrection. As with the new ending, the intermission can be added at the director's discretion without additional permission required.[5]

  • Magic to Do* – Leading Player and Ensemble
  • Corner of the Sky† – Pippin
  • Welcome Home – Charlemagne
  • War Is a Science – Charlemagne
  • Glory – Leading Player and Ensemble
  • Simple Joys – Leading Player
  • No Time at All‡ – Berthe
  • With You – Pippin
  • Spread a Little Sunshine – Fastrada
  • Morning Glow** – Pippin and Ensemble
  • On the Right Track – Leading Player and Pippin
  • And There He Was – Catherine
  • Kind of Woman – Catherine
  • Extraordinary – Pippin
  • Prayer for a Duck – Pippin
  • Love Song – Pippin and Catherine
  • I Guess I'll Miss the Man†† – Catherine
  • Finale/Magic Shows and Miracles – Leading Player, Fastrada, Pippin and Ensemble

* Introduced by Ben Vereen in the Broadway production and performed by Northern J. Calloway in London.

†Introduced by John Rubinstein in the title role on Broadway and performed by Paul Jones in the London production. The song was covered by The Jackson 5 in 1972, and is included as a bonus track on the 2000 CD release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording. A duet by Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark, whose vocals were recorded more than thirty years apart, is included on Clark's 2007 CD Duets.

‡Introduced by Irene Ryan in the Broadway production and performed by Elisabeth Welch in London.

** The song was covered by Michael Jackson (from his 1973 album Music and Me), and is included as a bonus track on the 2000 CD release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

††The song was covered by The Supremes in 1972, and is included as a bonus track on the 2000 CD release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

In the original 1972 production Fosse planned to use Stephen Schwartz's song "Marking Time" but before the show opened on Broadway the song was replaced with "Extraordinary".

Productions

Broadway

The show premiered at the Imperial Theater on October 23, 1972 and ran for 1,944 performances before closing on June 12, 1977. It was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.

Original cast:

Clive Barnes commented for The New York Times, "It is a commonplace set to rock music, and I must say I found most of the music somewhat characterless...It is nevertheless consistently tuneful and contains a few rock ballads that could prove memorable."[6] Advertising for the Broadway production broke new ground with the first TV commercial that actually showed scenes from a Broadway show.[7] The commercial, which ran 120 seconds, showed Ben Vereen and two other dancers (Candy Brown and Pamela Sousa who were in the chorus of the show) in the instrumental dance sequence from "Glory". The commercial ended with the tagline, "If you liked this minute, just wait until you see the other 119 of them!"

Notable Broadway replacements include: Samuel E. Wright, Northern J. Calloway and Ben Harney as Leading Player; Michael Rupert and Dean Pitchford as Pippin; Betty Buckley as Catherine; Dorothy Stickney as Berthe; and Priscilla Lopez as Fastrada.

London

The show opened in the West End at Her Majesty's Theatre on October 30, 1973 and ran for 85 performances. Bob Fosse again was director and choreographer.

London cast:

It was revived at the Menier Chocolate Factory in December 2011.

Other productions

In 2004, the first major New York revisitation of the show was featured as the second annual World AIDS Day Concert. It featured Michael Arden as Pippin, Laura Benanti as Catherine, Julia Murney as Fastrada, Terrence Mann as Charlemagne, Charles Busch as Berthe, and the role of the Leading Player was split up among five actors including Rosie O'Donnell, Darius deHaas, Billy Porter, Kate Shindle and a surprise guest appearance by Ben Vereen.

The show was produced in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum, from January 15, 2009 through March 15, 2009, in a radically different form. The play's setting was changed to reflect a modern tone and was subtly modified to include deaf actors using American Sign Language. The production was choreographed and directed by Jeff Calhoun for actors from both the Deaf West Theatre Company and the Center Theatre Group. The title character was played by Tyrone Giordano, who was voiced by actor Michael Arden.[8] The New York Times noted that the duality was required by the situation, but effectively showcased the character's "lack of a fixed self" in an exciting new fashion.[9][10]

Cast:

2011 London Revival

In 2011 the Menier Chocolate Factory, London produced a production of Pippin. It opened on 22nd November 2011

The cast included

CREATIVE TEAM Director / Choreographer Mitch Sebastian

Production Design Timothy Bird for Knifedge

Costume Design Jean-Marc Puissant

Lighting Design Ken Billington

Sound Design Gareth Owen

Musical Director / Additional Arrangements Tom Kelly

Orchestrations / Musical Supervisor Simon Lee

2012 Kansas City Production

The Kansas City Repertory Theatre produced and performed a version of Pippin that opened on September 14th, 2012 and closed on October 3rd, 2012. The score was adapted to reflect a punk-rock style by Curtis Moore and featured Broadway performer Mary Testa.

The cast included (in alphabetical order)

Eric Rosen- Director

Samantha Greene- Production Stage Manager

Curtis Moore- Music Director/Orchestrator/Arranger

Chase Brock- Choreography

Jack Magaw- Scenic Design

Alison Heryer- Costumes

Jason Lyons- Lighting Designing

Zachary Williamson- Sound Design

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

YearAwardCategoryNomineeResult
1973Tony Award[11]Best MusicalNominated
Best Book of a MusicalRoger O. HirsonNominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a MusicalBen VereenWon
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a MusicalLeland PalmerNominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a MusicalIrene RyanNominated
Best Original ScoreStephen SchwartzNominated
Best Direction of a MusicalBob FosseWon
Best ChoreographyWon
Best Scenic DesignTony WaltonWon
Best Costume DesignPatricia ZipprodtNominated
Best Lighting DesignJules FisherWon
Drama Desk AwardOutstanding DirectorBob FosseWon
Outstanding ChoreographyWon
Outstanding Set DesignTony WaltonWon
Outstanding Costume DesignPatricia ZipprodtWon

Film

1981 video

In 1981, a stage production of Pippin was videotaped for Canadian television. The stage production was directed by Kathryn Doby, Bob Fosse's dance captain for the original Broadway production, and David Sheehan directed the video adaptation, with Roger O. Hirson in charge of the music. Ben Vereen returned for the role of Leading Player, while William Katt played the role of Pippin. However, this version was a truncated adaptation and several sections of the play were cut.[12]

Cast:

Feature film

In 2003, Miramax acquired the feature film rights for Pippin, following the success of the musical, Chicago. No details about the production, including casting or release dates, were announced. As of 2012, a film version has not been produced.

References

  1. ^ "List of the 100 Longest-Running Broadway Shows". En.wikipedia.org. 2010-07-25. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_100_Longest-Running_Broadway_shows. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  2. ^ Holahan, Jane (2006-12-07). "Creator on ‘Pippin:’ ‘It was an inventive time’". Lancaster Online. http://local.lancasteronline.com/4/28490. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  3. ^ Miller, Scott (1996-01-01). From Assassins to West Side Story. Heinemann. 
  4. ^ "Pippin – Stephen Schwartz Answers Questions About the Show". Stephen Schwartz. http://www.stephenschwartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/pippin1.pdf. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  5. ^ "FAQ". Stephen Schwartz. http://www.stephenschwartz.com/faq/#q14. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  6. ^ Barnes, Clive. The New York Times, October 24, 1972, p. 37
  7. ^ Robertson, Campbell (2006-09-10). "Broadway, the Land of the Long-Running Sure Thing". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/10/theater/10robe.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew."CTG/Deaf West's Pippin Ends Limited California Engagement March 15", playbill.com, March 15, 2009
  9. ^ Isherwood, Charles."A Prince Without Direction, Facing Inner Demons Through Song and Sign".The New York Times, February 12, 2009
  10. ^ "'Pippin' Slideshow".The New York Times, February 12, 2009
  11. ^ "IBDB Production Awards – Pippin Awards". http://www.ibdb.com/awardproduction.asp?id=3096. 
  12. ^ Internet Movie Database listing

External links