FLASH SPECIAL: Magic To Do! PIPPIN Prepares For First Broadway Revival
"We've got magic to do, just for you," sing the strange and malevolent band of players that begin the proceedings in the uniquely compelling 1970s classic PIPPIN, composed by Stephen Schwartz and with a book by Roger O. Hirson. While the creation of the original Broadway production in 1972 was plagued with problems - none the least of which being the composer/lyricist, Schwartz, and the show's choreographer/director, Bob Fosse, failing to see eye to eye on virtually anything, resulting in Schwartz's barring from rehearsals and much of his subsequent artistic input denied - it went on to become a multi-Tony Award-winning mega-hit, running for nearly 2000 performances before it closed in 1977. The score even had a few crossover pop/rock bids on the charts thanks to the Jackson 5 and The Supremes utilizing the sounds of Schwartz's contemporary and radio-friendly score, complete with a cast album coming on the Motown record label, no less (and some funky new arrangements and orchestrations augmenting the sterling Ralph Burns originals, as a result). Starring Fosse muse Ben Vereen in one of his most sensational and unforgettable musical roles - which is really saying something - PIPPIN is an indescribable musical in many ways, but the powerful pull that the magical music and Fosse's original staging had, mixed with the vaguely narcissistic flower power message at the story's core, made it a gargantuan hit with the Me generation. While the book may have its flaws - and, believe me, it does - the sassy, spunky, try-anything vibe of the musical makes it an endearing, playful, and, ultimately, rewarding theatrical experience for many - with the inherent potential present for it to be much, much more. With news coming last week that the new Boston-based American Repertory Theatre's production of PIPPIN is coming to Broadway later this season - in no time at all - directed by lauded HAIR revival helmer Diane Paulus and produced by CHICAGO super-producers Fran and Barry Weissler, 2013 will mark the first time Charlemagne's misanthropic son will have trod the Broadway boards in nearly forty years.
From PIPPIN, PIPPIN at Carnegie Mellon in 1967, written by Schwartz as an undergrad, through to the Broadway production in 1972, titled PIPPIN: HIS LIFE & TIMES and the subsequent 1981 Toronto tour staging that was filmed for posterity, all the way to the revised 2000 Papermill Playhouse production, Deaf West's version in L.A. even more recently and far beyond, we will analyze it all in this all-encompassing clip collection. Now, with the Paulus-directed, A.R.T.-debuted Broadway revival ands its circus-style staging (choreographed "in the style of Bob Fosse", natch, by Chet Walker), PIPPIN is poised to set the night alight on the Great White Way once more - and, based on the preliminary reviews (such as the rave from BroadwayWorld's own Jan Nargi, here) the new production seems to be more than merely "on the right track," to crib a phrase from the musical's hit-packed song-stack. Yes, indeed - come the dawn of some day this spring, "Morning Glow" will evidently really be here, after all... at last.
Kings & Things To Take By Storm
So, today, let's take a look at the best moments from PIPPIN over the years - 1967 until now - while casting a glance ahead to the new Broadway revival opening in a few short months.
Kicking off a PIPPIN clip collection in the best of all possible ways, here is the stupendous, thrilling, unforgettable and daringly original opening number from PIPPIN as performed by Ben Vereen and company in the 1982 video preservation of the show, now available on DVD. All fable, no foible!
One of the most revolutionary aspects of the original Broadway production of PIPPIN was the marketing and promotion, spearheaded by this unprecedented - and endlessly enticing - TV commercial for the show devised and directed by Bob Fosse. That's certainly how to rope 'em in with the razzle dazzle!
Broadway superstar Raul Esparza sings the earworm Schwartz ditty "Simple Joys" in this tasty live take on the tune.
Esparza tackles the Act One Finale (when the show is performed in two acts, that is), "Morning Glow", in this tantalizing clip from a benefit performance of the musical.
Multi-Academy Award-winning PIPPIN composer Stephen Schwartz pleasingly performs the score's most famous song at the piano in a performance at the Kennedy Center, "Corner Of The Sky".
Enjoy this rollicking - and rockin' - Motown-infused cover of "Corner Of The Sky" as performed by Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five on SOUL TRAIN in 1972. The sitar is just icing on the funky cake!
For even more Michael Jackson/PIPPIN awesomeness, here is Jackson's vocal take on the tremendous "Morning Glow", released as a B-side in 1973.
Chart-topping composer/lyricist Jimmy Webb arranged and produced this stunning cover of the PIPPIN ballad "I Guess I'll Miss The Man", here performed live in 1973 by The Supremes - with accompanying fringe and fros, of course!
Act Three of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, a retrospective revue dedicated to the director/choreographer of the title, FOSSE, began with one his best-loved and most memorable musical stagings ever - PIPPIN's "Glory". Catch Ben Vereen recreating the iconic scene on the FOSSE DVD.
Broadway mainstay and iconic Fosse interpreter Valerie Pettiford performs a slinky, sexy, reworked "Magic To Do" in LA in this exciting live performance capture. The revival, too, will feature a female Leading Player - none other than SISTER ACT sensation Patina Miller. Yet, can she manage to top this?
PIPPIN actually began way back in the late-1960s as a project by then-newcomer Stephen Schwartz while at Carnegie Mellon University, titled PIPPIN, PIPPIN. Sample some scenes from the 40th anniversary production of the show there below - and the little-heard "Prayer For A Duck".
While perusing regional theater and amateur mountings of the show, here is a BroadwayWorld exclusive documentary all about the Deaf West production of PIPPIN from 2010.
STAR SEARCH winner Sam Harris also once led a production of PIPPIN. See him rehearse "On The Right Track" and other material from the show in this impressive behind-the-scenes video.
Now, without further ado, view the entire 1982 video preservation of PIPPIN, uncut, starring Ben Vereen, William Katt, Chita Rivera and more.
Original Granny from THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, Irene Ryan, created the role of Pippin's grandmother, Berthe, but it was Martha Raye who would ultimately commit the role to video - and how! Enjoy her standout solo, "No Time At All".
One of the most controversial aspects of the original production of PIPPIN was Fosse's incredibly raunchy and ribald staging of the "With You" orgy sequence of the show. See some of the reasons why below! "Sex presented pastorally", indeed (with or without a space between the t and o of that word).
For a special treat, take a listen to this cut song from the score, "Marking Time", sung by FALSETTOS star Michael Rupert (who eventually played the role when replacing original lead John Rubinstein, as a matter of fact).
Also, don't miss this vintage 1975 TV commercial for PIPPIN, starring Rupert along with some leggy Fosse females.
Lastly, preview the new Diane Paulus production of PIPPIN as performed at the A.R.T. in Boston, introduced and expounded upon by Paulus herself.
As a special bonus, enjoy A CHRISTMAS STORY and DOGFIGHT lyricist Benj Pasek playing the title role in a college production of PIPPIN at the University of Michigan, giving his all to "With You".
So, in your estimation, has enough time passed and is the world really ready for a new take on one of the most popular shows of the 1970s, particularly with a contemporary new vision for it like what Paulus and company have apparently devised? Furthermore, what song in Stephen Schwartz's colorful and varied score are you most looking forward to experience being performed on a Broadway stage sometime soon? Also, what are your thoughts on a female Leading Player, in this case InDepth InterView participant and rising Broadway marquee name Patina Miller? Whatever your feelings, "all the phantoms of the night" are apparently fading into the past and the future enticingly glows with a shiny new PIPPIN on the horizon.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro