Broadway in Chicago has ‘magic to do’ at the Cadillac Palace Theatre this week when Pippin opens on July 29th. The show only runs through August 9th, so be sure to get your own personal corner of the sky.
Long before setting the Land of Oz to music in Wicked, Stephen Schwartz began writing a student musical entitled Pippin while attending Carnegie Mellon University. The musical uses the premise of a mysterious performance troupe, led by a Leading Player, to tell the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for meaning and significance. A little over a year after Schwartz’s hit Godspell took Broadway by storm, Pippin premiered at the Imperial Theater on October 23, 1972. The production was directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse (he won Tony’s in both categories), and the show starred Ben Vereen, who won the Tony for the Leading Player role. Just two years later, Schwartz wrote music and lyrics of The Magic Show, which ran for nearly 2,000 performances. At the age of 26, Stephen Schwartz had three smash hit musicals playing in New York simultaneously.
Pippin broke a lot of new ground and established many a career. John Rubinstein, who created the role of Pippin on Broadway, is now touring with the show playing Pippin’s father, Charles (loosely based on the historical figure Charlemagne from the Middle Ages). The ad campaign for the play produced the first TV commercial that actually showed scenes from a Broadway show. That commercial showed Ben Vereen and two other dancers in the dance sequence from “Glory”. The commercial tagline, “You can see the other 119 minutes of Pippin live at the Imperial Theatre, without commercial interruption.”
Stephen Schwartz tells the story of heading to a meeting in order to secure the rights to the book “Wicked.” He was initially nervous, but the executive he met with proceeded to sing “Day by Day.” At that point Schwartz felt secure that he had a leg up in getting the rights to the book.
Ben Vereen made such an impact in the role of Leading Player that, during the auditions for the revival, according to Schwartz, it was difficult to separate the part from the renowned actor. So they decided to go in a different direction, which is how Patina Miller got the part. Both Vereen and Miller won Tony Awards for their portrayals of the Leading Player, making them the first two actors of different genders to win a Tony for the same role.
Aside from all of the great songs and action in this show, it is also filled with extraordinary acrobatics and wondrous magical feats directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (Hair and The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess). It features sizzling choreography in the style of Bob Fosse and breathtaking acrobatics by Les 7 Doigts de la Main. But you don’t have to be too magical to see this unforgettable show–you just have to buy a ticket. But don’t delay, because in no time at all Pippin departs.