Stephen Schwartz, the composer behind 1971's Off-Broadway hit Godspell, made his Broadway musical premiere in 1972 with Pippin, a musical originally conceived for his student theatre troupe at Carnegie Mellon University.
The opening-night cast included Ben Vereen as the Leading Player and Jill Clayburgh as Catherine (Ann Reinking was her understudy). Following an extensive search and open casting call, Broadway newcomer John Rubinstein landed the title role. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed.
"It is one of the best musical stagings to be seen on Broadway in years," Clive Barnes declared in his review for the New York Times, "and it might well do for the actor Ben Vereen what Cabaret did for Joel Grey." Collaborators Roger O. Hirson and Schwartz would not receive similar acclaim. "The book is feeble and the music is bland," he wrote. "It is a trite and uninteresting story with aspirations to a seriousness it never for one moment fulfills."
Nonetheless, the musical Barnes deemed a "painfully ordinary little show" proved a hit. The production went on to earn 11 Tony nominations and play nearly 2,000 performances in its five-year run.