The curtain opens, revealing the face of the Leading Player, who welcomes the audience. One by one, players from a traveling theatre troupe join the Leading Player, breaking the fourth wall by singing directly to the crowd, and performing magic tricks, acrobatics, dance, and other spectacles. They inform the audience, “We have magic to do, just for you” (“Magic to Do”).
The Leading Player begins the story by introducing our hero, Pippin, the son of King Charles. He has just returned from university, where he succeeded academically. Now back home, Pippin has decided that he refuses to do anything ordinary with his life (“Corner of the Sky”). With the Leading Player’s encouragement, he is certain that he can find something extraordinary to do.
Pippin returns to the castle to greet his father, Charles, but their meeting is constantly interrupted by the ceaseless flow of nobles, peasants, soldiers, and courtiers with bones to pick, and even in moments alone, Charles struggles to show affection for his son (“Welcome Home”). Charles’ wife, Fastrada, and her dim-witted son Lewis appear. Despite Lewis’s idiocy, Fastrada is eager to secure the throne for him. Charles is angry that Fastrada has overdrawn their accounts again, and leaves in a huff.
Pippin learns that Charles, Lewis, and the soldiers are preparing to go to battle against the Visigoths. Inspired, he decides that perhaps his purpose in life is to be a soldier. He obtains a helmet and attempts to join his father in battle, despite his father’s hesitancy. In his enthusiasm, Pippin keeps getting in his father’s way as Charles instructs his troops on the battle plan (“War is a Science”). Pippin becomes increasingly disturbed by the violent language his father uses, and starts to become disaffected with war. Nevertheless, Pippin and Lewis follow their father into battle. When Charles’ army enters the bloody fray, the Leading Player uses song and dance to extol the virtues of violence and battle, singing lines