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About the Show
Pippin is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell) and a book by Roger O. Hirson. The director of the original production, the great Bob Fosse (Cabaret, Chicago), also contributed to the book. The main character is derived from Pepin the Hunchback, the eldest son of Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Romans (also a character in the show). But the characters have little true historical basis aside from name and setting. Pippin utilizes anachronisms, presents a show-within-a-show format, and breaks the fourth wall as it creates an unconventional, disorienting, defamiliarized experience for the audience. Critics argue that it has more substance than many people realize, thanks in part to a 1970s pop-influenced score and a watered-down licensed version frequently used in amateur productions.
Schwartz originally conceived the show as a student musical performed at Carnegie Mellon University. It debuted on Broadway on October 23, 1972, and ran for an impressive 1,944 performances, closing on June 12, 1977. A London production opened in 1973 but was considerably less successful, running for just 83 performances. Recent incarnations include a 2004 concert version starring Michael Arden, Laura Benanti, Julia Murney, and Terrence Mann with special appearances by Rosie O'Donnell, Kate Shindle, and Ben Vereen, and a modernized 2011 revival at London's Menier Chocolate Factory. Pippin remains a popular choice for school and regional productions, and companies get to stretch their creative wings with such a unique and amorphous piece. The 2013 Broadway revival won multiple Tony Awards and attracted much attention for its circus-themed visuals and choreography. Order your Pippin tickets now to see this intriguing show live. Pippin has now ended its Broadway residency and is on tour! Check out the 2017 Pippin dates with tickets from Ticket Liquidator.
A troupe of actors dressed in costume pieces from various places and eras appears onstage. The company and its Leading Player address the audience, inviting them to join them for the story of Pippin, a boy prince named Pippin who is searching for purpose and fulfillment in life, and who will be portrayed by their new actor. After Pippin tells the scholars in his dreams of his plans, they applaud his desire for an extraordinary life. He then returns home to the castle of his father, Charlemagne (King Charles), where it is revealed that their relationship is strained by Charles' kingly duties. When his stepmother, Fastrada, brings her simple son, Lewis, who plans to join Charles in the fight against the Visigoths, Pippin pleads with his father until he agrees to take him along.
When they finally reach battle, the players stage a mock battle glorifying war, but Pippin quickly realizes he does not like it and runs off into the countryside. Pippin soon comes to the estate of Berthe, his grandmother on his father's side, exiled by Fastrada. She encourages him to lighten up and enjoy life, but after a string of flings, he realizes that relationships without love leave you empty. The Leading Player suggests that Pippin find meaning by fighting tyranny, and convinces him that Charles is the perfect target. Fastrada is delighted that Pippin is planning a revolution, because if both Pippin and Charles die, her beloved son Lewis will take the throne. Pippin kills Charles and takes over the kingdom, but soon realizes that he can't change the system; he is forced to act as a tyrant as well. He gets the Leading Player to bring his father back to life so he can leave the throne.
Pippin is lost once again until the Leading Player inspires him. After searching for purpose in the realms of art and religion, he happens upon a young widow, Catherine, and her son, Theo. The Leading Player is immediately concerned that her real attraction to Pippin might ruin his plan. Initially, Pippin deplores the mundane nature of Catherine's and Theo's lower-class, pastoral existence, but he soon finds himself comforting Theo on the death of his beloved pet duck. Despite growing to like Catherine, Pippin forces himself to move on to find fulfillment in his life, leaving Catherine disappointed and heartbroken.
Alone onstage, Pippin is joined by the Leading Player and the rest of the troupe, who encourage him to perform the most perfect act ever; they tell him to get into a box, light it aflame, and become one with the fire. He slowly loses resistance to the idea until he is stopped by his instincts and by the actress playing Catherine, who defies the Leading Player's plan and the script. Pippin resolves that he was most happy with Catherine and Theo and decides that true fulfillment may just lie in a modest, ordinary life. The Leading Player leads the troupe to dismantle the stage in anger and calls off the show.* Grab your Pippin tickets to go along with our hero on his journey of discovery.
*Another version of the show eliminates Pippin's stay with Catherine and Theo and offers an alternate ending: When Pippin decides on an ordinary life with Catherine, Theo goes onstage, takes the Leading Player's hand, and, while Pippin and Catherine look on unable to intervene, the lights come up on Theo and, presumably, the cycle goes on.
2 hours 30 minutes with one intermission
1973 Tony Awards: 11 nominations, 5 wins
1973 Drama Desk Awards: 4 nominations, 4 wins
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Book: Roger O. Hirson
Director: Diane Paulus
Choreographer: Chet Walker
Circus Creation: Gypsy Snider
Set Designer: Scott Pask
Costume Designer: Dominique Lemieux
Lighting Designer: Kenneth Posner
Sound Designer: Clive Goodwin