30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #8 - A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC Vs. PIPPIN
Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special focus on another major battle for Best Musical with 1973's PIPPIN versus A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.
Send In The Clowns
Matching up master composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim against up and coming songwriting wunderkind Stephen Schwartz as well as pitting choreographic genius Bob Fosse against Tony Awards directing champ Hal Prince, 1973 was a momentous year for the Tony Awards with two Best Musical candidates of enormous artistry and extreme entertainment value - A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and PIPPIN. Although the shows themselves could not be more different in their style, sound, tone and overall mood, both are among the most important and influential musicals of the 1970s and comparing them in their own time - as well as how they measure up here and now - is quite illuminatingly instructive.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC took its basis from the Ingmar Bergman romantic comedy SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, adapted by Hugh Wheeler and abetted by a delicate and delectable central performance given by Glynis Johns, who performed the score standout "Send In The Clowns" - to this day, arguably Sondheim's most well-known composition. With an enchanting and alluring production helmed by Hal Prince, the romantic musical has an unmistakably European air, complete with an onstage Liebeslieder quintet and a waltz-themed score. Erudite and whip-smart, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is a musical comedy in the most adult sense.
Comparably, PIPPIN is something else entirely. Ostensibly a phantasmagoria centered on warmongering medieval emperor Charlemagne and his son, Pippin, the humble musical by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson was invaluably improved and enhanced by the dazzling and awe-inspiring direction and choreography provided by the king of razzle dazzle, Bob Fosse. Featuring triple-threat superstar Ben Vereen in what would be his finest role to date, PIPPIN boasts a plethora of standout musical sequences and showstopping songs, with the simply magical "Magic To Do" a modern-day musical theatre classic for very good reason, especially as originally envisioned.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC eventually took home the top prize for Best Musical, while also winning in the categories of Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Actress In A Musical (Glynis Johns), Best Featured Actress In A Musical (Patricia Elliott) and Best Costume Design (Florence Klotz). PIPPIN claimed Best Actor In A Musical (Ben Vereen), Best Direction and Best Choreography (Bob Fosse), Best Scenic Design (Tony Walton) and Best Lighting Design (Jules Fisher).
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So, now, let's look at some of the most memorable Tony Awards moments pertaining to PIPPIN and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.
First, Ben Vereen leads the cast of PIPPIN on the 1973 Tony Awards.
Next, see the 2013 Broadway revival cast of PIPPIN.
Now, see Glynis Johns perform "Send In The Clowns".
Lastly, Catherine Zeta-Jones leads the 2009 revival of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.
As a special bonus, view the complete 1973 Tony Awards below.
If you had to choose between these two musical theatre masterpieces as Tony voters had to in 1973, which would you choose for the top prize? Furthermore, what score is your favorite? What song is the one you can't forget? Clearly, with PIPPIN featuring a corps of traveling theatrical players and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC highlighted by "Send In The Clowns", 1973 was the year of the circus - and clowns.
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