1972 – Pippin‘s Broadway Debut
Opening on October 23 in 1972 in the Minskoff theatre, Pippin had a production team of up and coming stars. Stephen Schwartz on music/lyrics and Bob Fosse on direction/choreography this duo came together to create the show we all now know and love. They were up and coming enough for Fosse to win both direction and choreography at the Tony’s while being nominated for other notable awards such as best musical, score, and book. Ben Vareen won for best actor while his counter part, Leland Palmer was nominated.
All of this to say, Pippin was standing in the shadow of the two previous productions done by the two Broadway powerhouses with most reviews referring to Godspell or Cabaret at least once. It is interesting to point out that this is a show about being extraordinary – and the toll that it takes on a person making their way through the world. We look at these two artists and where they were in their careers – Fosse living at the top of his game after the movie version of Cabaret and becoming a household name. Schwartz coming on the scene after working on this piece since college wanting to be “extraordinary”. There is evidence that the two butted heads, Fosse going as far as to say:
“I had trouble with Schwartz – we fought all along the way…”Fosse in a NYTimes interview discussing the creation of the show
We can see these two creators struggling for power in the tonal differences of the play – a naiveté boy (Schwartz) being confronted with what it truly means to be seen as extraordinary by the players (Fosse).
Pippin and the Revival – born from fire
In 2013, the revival for Pippin opened at the Music Box theatre on April 25th. (But the first preview was my birthday, March 23!) It once again took the Tony’s for best direction and leading actress – and best revival upstaging the original production. It took on the blend of circus that I know, but this blending was not all for the looks. Listen to director Diane Paulus and choreographer Chet Walker discuss the opening number in the clip below.
The irony is not lost on me that the design team saw a show about the dangers of being “amazing” and upped the anti. They saw a traveling troupe of artists and they became a dazzling circus; furthering the glitz and glamor sheen this musical brings.
They worked with the troupe called Seven Fingers. Some of whom were in the show alongside actors and dancers. Patina Miller, who performed as the Lead Player, had never done circus training this intense before.