by Scott Miller
Fosse dealt with the score he considered weak and often treacly by creating a show
that ridiculed itself. Fosse had a kind of self-loathing for his kind of razzle dazzle show
business, and like Chicago several year later, Pippin became a show that made fun of its own
artifice. In Fosse's version, we're not supposed to hear "Corner of the Sky" as Stephen
Schwartz' song for the Broadway musical Pippin; we're supposed to hear it as a ridiculous
statement by an immature young man in the troupe's musical, Pippin, His Life and Times. In
that context Fosse could actually let characters make fun of the songs. Before the overly
sentimental "Love Song," Fosse added a speech which ends by telling us that Pippin and
Catherine are "struck" by a love song, showing again Fosse's distaste for traditional happily-
ever-after musicals (of course, this line was removed from the licensed version). Thus, Fosse
dulled the cliches of "Love Song" by letting us laugh at it, and therefore, at Pippin, too.
Because of this self-awareness, we -- as audience -- become a part of the event, a part
of the action, more so than with any other musical. Not only do characters interact with us
throughout the show, but we also become a reason for Pippin to kill himself in the finale, as
Leading Player tells him he's going to disappoint the audience if he doesn't set himself on
fire. We witness Leading Player losing control of the show, so that the show both admits its
artifice and pretends to reality simultaneously. Catherine rebels by taking control of her scene
and singing a song that Leading Player doesn't know she's going to sing (the song is
traditionally not listed in the program for this reason). Then Pippin rebels, by refusing to do
the finale. Finally, Leading Player loses all composure and has a temper tantrum, signalling a
total loss of control. Leading Player then involves us again by inviting one of us to take
Pippin's place. We become the show's only hope of going on as planned. Our decision affects
how the show will end (although what would happen if one of us volunteered?).
Leading Player is doing something you usually only see in straight plays by writers
like Edward Albee or Eugene O'Neill. Leading Player lies, and not just to Pippin, but to us as
well. We can't trust him as we would a normal narrator, and unlike a normal narrator, he
manipulates events for his own purposes.
Some Days He'd Scowl and Curse...