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Working Magic With Pippin
by Scott Miller

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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.

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