Pippin is a stage musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse also contributed to the libretto. The show purports to tell the story of Pippin the Hunchback, the son of Charlemagne.
The play begins with a leading player of a troupe and the actors in various costume pieces of several different time periods. The Leading Player (often said to represent the devil) invites the audience to join them in a story about a boy prince searching for fulfillment. Pippin tells the scholars of the time of his dreams and they happily applaud Pippin on his ambitious quest for an extraordinary life. Pippin then returns home to the castle and estate of Charlemagne (King Charles), his father. Charles and Pippin don't get a chance to communicate often, as they are interrupted by nobles, soldiers, and couriers vying for Charles' attention. Pippin also meets up with his step-mother Fastrada, and her dim-witted son Lewis. Charles and Lewis are planning on going into battle soon, and Pippin begs Charles to take him along so as to prove himself.
Once in battle, the Leading Player re-enters to lead the troupe in a mock battle using top hats, canes, and fancy jazz as to glorify warfare and violence. This charade of war does not appeal to Pippin, and the boy flees into the countryside. The Leading Player tells the audience of Pippin's travel through the country, until he stops at his exiled grandmother's estate. There, Berthe (his grandmother) tells Pippin not to be so serious and to live a little. Pippin takes this advice and decides to search for something a bit more light-hearted. He chooses sex. After an overwhelming orgy of sexual activity, Pippin realizes the true nature of sex as an all consuming entity, and begs the Leading Player to halt the troupe in their erotic dances.
The Leading Player then tells Pippin that perhaps he should fight tyranny, and uses Charles as a perfect example of an unenlightened tyrant to fight. Pippin plans a revolution, and Fastrada is delighted to hear that perhaps Charles and Pippin will both perish so that her beloved Lewis can become king. Fastrada arranges the murder of Charles, and Pippin falls victim to her plot. He kills Charles while praying and becomes the new king. However, after petitions from the masses, Pippin finds himself being just as tyrannical as Charles. He begs the Leading Player to bring his slain father back to life, and the Leading Player does so.
The exiled Pippin then travels and stumbles upon an estate owned by Catherine, a widow, with a small boy, Theo. Pippin thinks himself above such boring manorial duties as sweeping, repairs, and milking cows, but warms up to the lovely Catherine. However, as time goes by, Pippin realizes that he must leave the estate to still find his purpose.
All alone on a stage, Pippin is surrounded by the Leading Player and the various troup members. They all suggest that Pippin complete the most perfect act ever--the Finale. They tell Pippin to jump into a box of fire, light himself up, and "become one with the flame." Pippin is reluctant, but agrees that perhaps suicide is the best way to go, but he is stopped by one actress from the troupe--the woman playing Catherine. Catherine and her son stand by Pippin and defy the script, the Leading Player, and Fastrada. The Leading Player gets furious and calls off the show, telling the rest of the troupe to pack up and leave Pippin, Catherine, and her son alone forever, trapped on an empty and dark stage. Pippin realizes that he has given up his extraordinary purpose for the simplest and most ordinary life of all, and is finally a happy man.
Some years after the original production of "Pippin" an alternative ending was written for the show at the request of the publishing company which owned the rights, as some felt that the ending from the original script was too abrupt and shallow, as it ends with the following exchange:
The new ending replaces this with Pippin and Catherine about to settle down to "live happily ever after", only to discover that the Lead Player and his troupe have targeted young Theo in hopes of succeeding with him where they failed with Pippin (i.e. convince him to commit suicide). The curtain goes down as the troupe begins an encore of the show's opening number "Magic to Do".
The show opened at the Imperial Theater on October 23, 1972 and ran for 1944 performances. It was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.
The show opened at Her Majesty's Theatre on October 30, 1973 and ran for 85 performances. Bob Fosse again was director and choreographer.
The Melbourne production opened at Her Majesty's Theatre on February 23, 1974.
In 1981 a stage production of Pippin was filmed for Canadian television. It was directed by David Sheehan, with Roger O. Hirson in charge of the music. Ben Vereen returned for the role of Leading Player, while William Katt played the role of Pippin. Because of the time restrictions in television, many parts of the play had to be cut.
In 2003 Miramax acquired the feature film rights for Pippin, following the success of Chicago. No details about the production, including casting or release dates, have been announced.