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Pippin (musical)

Pippin is a stage 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 show was very loosely based on the life of Pippin the Hunchback, the son of Charlemagne. The show was partially financed by Motown Records. As of July 2008, Pippin is the 28th longest-running Broadway musical in musical theatre history. Pippin was originally conceived by Stephen Schwartz as Pippin, Pippin, a student musical performed by Carnegie Mellon's Scotch'n'Soda theatre troupe.

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." The story is set in Charlemagne's France. 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 disturbingly truthful.

A background and analysis essay about the show is on the New Line Theatre website


The play begins with a leading player of a troupe and the actors in various costume pieces of several different time periods. The Leading Player invites the audience 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 the time about his dreams ("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 couriers 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"). 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' mother, exiled by Fastrada) tells Pippin not to be so serious and to live a little ("No Time At All"). Pippin takes this advice and decides to search for something a bit more lighthearted. He chooses "the flesh," sex ("With You"). After an overwhelming orgy of sexual activity, Pippin realizes the true nature of sex as an all-consuming entity, and begs the Leading Player to halt the troupe in their erotic dances.

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.

Pippin is left without direction until the Leading Player inspires him ("On the Right Track"). After experimenting with art and religion, he travels and stumbles upon an estate owned by Catherine ("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, but agrees that perhaps suicide is the best way to go ("Finale"), but 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". 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. 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.

Alternate Ending

The currently licensed edition of Pippin has a slightly different ending. After Pippin avers his contentment with a simple life with Catherine, Theo remains on stage and sings the chorus of "Corner of the Sky", after which the Leading Player and the troupe return to begin work on this new prospect. Current productions vary between the two possible endings.


Though an intermission is often wedged into productions of the show, it is written to be performed in one act and its single-arc structure does not easily accommodate an intermission. Many directors insert an intermission after "Morning Glow," though doing so is technically a breach of the licensing contract.

  • Magic to Do*
  • Corner of the Sky†
  • Welcome Home
  • War Is a Science
  • Glory
  • Simple Joys
  • No Time at All‡
  • With You
  • Spread a Little Sunshine
  • Morning Glow**

  • On the Right Track
  • Kind of Woman
  • Extraordinary
  • Prayer for a Duck
  • Love Song
  • I Guess I'll Miss the Man††
  • Finale/Magic Shows and Miracles

* 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 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, and is included as a bonus track on the 2000 CD release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

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



The show opened 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:

Advertising for the Broadway production broke new ground by being the first commercial that actually showed scenes from a Broadway show. The commercial, which ran 120 seconds, showed Ben Vereen and two other dancers (one of whom was Ann Reinking who was 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!"

Among the replacements of the original cast include: Samuel E. Wright, Northern J. Calloway and Ben Harney for Ben Vereen; Michael Rupert for John Rubinstein; Betty Buckley for Jill Clayburgh; Dorothy Stickney for Irene Ryan; and Priscilla Lopez for Leland Palmer.


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

London cast:



In 1981, a stage production of Pippin was videotaped for Canadian television. It was directed by Kathryn Doby, Bob Fosse's dance captain for the original Broadway production, and directed for video by David Sheehan, 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. Because of the time restrictions in television, many parts of the play were cut from the broadcast.



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, have been announced.


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