Pippin, with Patina Miller (center), looks more like a circus than a Broadway show. (Michael J. Lutch)
Die-hard musical theater fans rejoice: A classic is returning to the Broadway stage! For the first time since its original five-year run closed in 1977, Pippin is making a whole new mark on the Great White Way.
The original production featured choreography and direction by Broadway master Bob Fosse. This updated version, which was first performed in December at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, fuses the old with the new, with updated choreography by Chet Walker. “There are a couple places in the show where the original choreography appears—the ‘Manson Trio,’ the calypso dance from ‘With You’ and then a bit of ‘Magic to Do’—but with a twist,” says Pippin dancer Molly Tynes. “In the other numbers, Chet kind of tips his hat to the Fosse choreography.” Walker was in Pippin’s original Broadway company and is one of the few choreographers sanctioned by the Verdon/Fosse Estate to teach his iconic style.
So, we know the dancing will be phenomenal, but what is Pippin about? The dark musical comedy tells the fictionalized story of Pippin (the real-life son of King Charlemagne), who is trying to find his place in life. The plot is peppered with over-the-top characters: a mischievous lead player (a sort of emcee), an evil stepmother, a quirky grandmother and, of course, a beautiful love interest. And this production pulls out all the stops, presenting Pippin’s adventures as a circus. In fact, half the ensemble members are dancers, and the other half are circus-trained acrobats. Tynes walks that line, as the only dancer who also does aerial work. “The acrobats bring an interesting flavor to the cast because they come from a completely different world,” she says. “They’re doing these absolutely insane tricks you’re just not going to believe.”
Fosse-style choreography, a stage-ready story and classic Broadway tunes—why did it take so long for this show to be revived? “I think it’s difficult to take something that’s so memorialized and make it appealing to new audiences without alienating the old,” Tynes says. “But adding the circus element gives the show a new context, and we’ve had great feedback from people who loved the original and feel this is the way to bring it into the future.”
Pippin opens at the Music Box Theatre in NYC April 25. Get your tickets at pippinthemusical.com.