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Working Magic With Pippin
by Scott Miller

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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...



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