By Steven Suskin
21 Jul 2013
Pippin is an unusual musical, as long-running blockbusters go. The original production was stunning, with the praise mostly going to the razzle-dazzle skills of director/choreographer Bob Fosse. The more accolades Fosse received, the less credit went to lesser items like songs and book. (Fosse, methinks, planned it that way; he was quite a showman and seemed to build the musical on a foundation of nothing.) Pippin has been more or less relegated to the "shows of their time but hopelessly dated" shelf.
It turns out, though, that there's life in the old boy yet. The old boy being Pippin, young son of Charlemagne but otherwise a minor historical figure. Rebellious young son, that is. The show came along in the midst of the Vietnam protest era, which was embraced by major hits like Hair and 1776. (The latter, which praised patriotism while lionizing pacifists — in the "Momma, Look Sharp" scene, anyway — and lambasted "cool, cool" conservatives, was produced by the same Stuart Ostrow who, four years later, gave us Pippin.)
Pippin sans Fosse seemed as unthinkable as West Side Story sans Robbins or A Chorus Line sans Bennett, but that overlooks the presence of songwriter Schwartz. He has never gotten much respect on Broadway, even when he had three concurrent hits in the 1970s (namely Pippin, Godspell and The Magic Show). Wicked, while not winning him any awards, has established his songwriting credentials now and forever. In fact, I would have to guess that his percentage royalty for Wicked — with multiple companies racking up millions of dollars a week — has caused him to out-earn all American theatre composers.