The idea for the musical Pippin was sparked when Stephen Schwartz was in college at Carnegie Mellon. He learned the story of “Pippin the Hunchback,” a prince who launched a campaign against his father, Charlemagne, during the middle ages. Upon graduation, he pitched the show to Harold Prince, who recommended that Schwartz add a section that takes place after Charlemagne’s murder. Pippin evolved into a story about a young man trying to find himself and his purpose -- written just as Schwartz was struggling to find his own.
Pippin premiered on Broadway on October 23, 1972, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, and starred Ben Vereen as the Leading Player. While the production received middling-to-good reviews (most praised the tuneful and catchy music, but found issue with the simplistic allegorical story), it ran for 1,944 performance, making it the 31st longest Broadway show in history. Pippin is also notable as being the first Broadway show to use clips in its advertising-- it featured a 60-second clip of Ben Vereen and two dancers dancing a section of “Glory,” and concluded with the tagline, “You can see the other 119 minutes of Pippin live at the Imperial Theatre, without commercial interruption." This was a groundbreaking moment in theatre advertising.
In 2013, Diane Paulus directed a new revival of Pippin, which premiered at American Repertory Theatre in Massachusetts before moving to Broadway and opening on April 25, 2013, at the Music Box Theatre in New York City. The new production transformed the traveling theatre troupe from Schwartz’s original production into a circus troupe, led by the ringmaster Patina Miller, as the female Leading Player. In addition to enlisting seven professional circus performers, each of the lead and supporting actors also learned circus skills (such as hula, trapeze, and acrobatics) -- including the role of Berthe, played by Tony winner Andrea Martin, who was 67 when the production opened. The revival was universally praised and nabbed Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Director (Diane Paulus), Best Actress in a Musical (Patina Miller), and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical (Andrea Martin). The revival closed in January 2015.