by Scott Miller
After Godspell had opened, its composer, Stephen Schwartz, returned to looking for a
producer for a show he had written called Pippin, Pippin. Stuart Ostrow agreed to produce it,
but wanted a new script. By the time the new book was written by Roger Hirson, now called
The Adventures of Pippin, an entirely new score had to be written as well. The show now told
the story of a young man named Pippin going on a quest for fulfillment and self-awareness,
and the traveling troupe of Commedia dell'Arte players who play out his life for him, so that
he can experiment in relative safety.
To direct the show, Ostrow hired the respected director/choreographer Bob Fosse. But
Fosse didn't like the show. It was cute and very sentimental and Fosse had developed a
reputation for dark, often disturbing musical theatre. He wanted to make Pippin more into his
kind of show. He created the character of Leading Player, a narrator and Best Buddy, who
accompanies Pippin on his quest, and who also controls the events as they are played out. In
Fosse's version, Leading Player and his troupe want Pippin to do their Grand Finale -- setting
himself on fire -- and they make sure that Pippin fails at everything he tries, so that the finale
will be his only remaining option. The show became dark and cynical.
Originally opening with the troupe of players arriving in a field with their wagon of
props, Fosse's opening set them on the stage the audience was watching -- complete realism.
The original happy ending became a compromise instead of a victory; instead of finding true
happiness, Pippin finds he must settle for less than he really wants. Fosse turned the love
song "With You" into an orgy. He remade the entire show as a parade of frightening,
disturbing incidents in which Pippin finds less and less satisfaction. Historians and people
involved with the show say Fosse greatly re-wrote Hirson's script, but he asked for no official
credit. Hirson strongly denies that Fosse wrote any part of the show.
Intrigue, Plots to Bring Disaster...