I cannot for the life of me get an LJ-cut to work without deleting half of the text for some reason. Apologies.
Will London (By Way of Cyberspace) Be New Route for ‘Pippin’ To Broadway?
By PATRICK HEALY
A circus-like revival of the popular 1970s musical “Pippin,” which director Diane Paulus was aiming for Broadway in the 2012-13 season, is in limbo now that another production of the show – this one inspired by virtual reality games – will open this fall in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory, which has a track record of moving revivals to Broadway.
Stephen Schwartz, the “Pippin” composer and lyricist, said in an interview that he had opted to pursue a revival first with the Chocolate Factory because the director there, Mitch Sebastian, had initially pitched his concept before Ms. Paulus (“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” “Hair”) and her producer, Barry Weissler (“Chicago”).
In recent years Mr. Schwartz had developed ideas with both teams, he said, but the Chocolate Factory and Mr. Sebastian were ready to mount their revival quickly. The London production, which will incorporate Bob Fosse’s original Tony Award-winning choreography, is set to run from Nov. 22 through Feb. 25, 2012.
The Chocolate Factory revival will put a modern twist on the musical’s original conceit of an acting troupe telling the 8th century story of a young prince named Pippin searching for purpose in the world, Mr. Schwartz said. Instead of a troupe of actors, this new “Pippin” will be told by a group of characters playing a computer game similar to “Second Life,” a popular program that allows users to explore a virtual world and socialize and do business with other residents.
“I found it to be a fascinating concept, even if I have no idea if it will be workable or not,” said Mr. Schwartz, who collaborated with book writer Roger O. Hirson on “Pippin,” which ran on Broadway from 1972 to 1977 and starred Ben Vereen (who won the Tony Award for best actor) as the Leading Player and John Rubinstein as Pippin.
“Just as the original ‘Pippin’ dealt with concerns of a young man coming of age at that time, this idea seemed to bring the enactment story into the present day without undercutting the tale that takes place around 800 A.D. The idea actually required very little change, just a couple of words here and there. It felt like it was worth a shot.”
“If it works out, the Chocolate Factory will make its own determination about the future of the show,” he added, referring to the possibility that the London “Pippin” might eventually come to Broadway. “And if it doesn’t work out, I’ve told Diane and Barry that if they’re still interested, we’ll pursue a ‘Pippin’ with them. There’s no bad blood. Everyone seems in agreement with just seeing what happens.”
As it happens, the Chocolate Factory last worked on Broadway with Mr. Weissler, on the transfer of “La Cage Aux Folles” from London in 2010; the theater company has also moved its revivals of “A Little Night Music” and “Sunday in the Park with George” to Broadway over the last four years.
Mr. Weissler, asked about the future of his “Pippin” on Wednesday, said, “I’m basically waiting to find out what Stephen wishes to do. Diane and I would love to do it. We think it’s a marvelous property.” The show, which includes songs like “Magic to Do,” “Corner of the Sky,” and “Morning Glow,” was nominated for 11 Tonys in 1973 and won five, including best director and best choreography for Mr. Fosse.
Ms. Paulus held a reading of “Pippin” last year, with the Tony-nominated actor Gavin Creel (“Hair”) in the title role, with the hope of mounting a tryout production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. – where she is artistic director – and then bringing “Pippin” to Broadway, where it has never been revived. Her concepts included casting acrobats, jugglers, and others from Les 7 Doigts de la Main (or 7 Fingers), a Montreal troupe of street circus performers that is currently performing Off Broadway in the show “Traces.”
The story-within-a-story structure of “Pippin” has long lent itself to bold nterpretations by regional theaters as well as colleges and high schools, where it is a staple in the repertoire. In 2009, for instance, Deaf West Theater Company and the Center Theater Group adapted the musical for a cast of both hearing and hearing-impaired actors to convey, among other things, Pippin’s struggle with his own torn identity.
Neither Mr. Weissler nor the Chocolate Factory has announced official plans to mount “Pippin” in New York, but the musical seemed to have a future on Broadway given the pedigree of those involved and the show’s long absence there.SourceFrankly, if someone's going to revive this, I'm seeing it. I don't care if it's puppets or pixels or if you're actually going to set it in 800 A.D. Diane Paulus did an amazing job with
Hair (although the acrobat concept sounds more workable than virtual reality to me). The book is strange, but the music is amaaaazing. Possibly better than
Wicked. I've been singing "Corner of the Sky" and "Extraordinary" and "Simple Joys" and "No Time At All" and "I Guess I'll Miss The Man" and "On The Right Track" and "Spread a Little Sunshine" since I discovered my parent's cassette tape! (Incidentally, I'm still surprised when the finale doesn't cut off in the middle of "Think about the moment/that's so close at hand!" like the tape did.)