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  • Diane Paulus Unlocks a Joyful Innocence in Her Heaven-Sent ‘Pippin’

    I have never been partial to “Pippin.” Originally, I found director-choreographer Bob Fosse’s dark, angry cynicism to be at odds with Stephen Schwartz’s Joni Mitchell–flavored score and Roger O. Hirson’s sketchy, jokey book for this awfully slight tale about a young man’s search for meaning in his life. Fosse’s work, impressive as it was, felt imposed and seemed to me to signal contempt for the material. Of course, that made me a minority of just about one, and I felt very lonely. So today my gratitude to director Diane Paulus is boundless. Thanks to her beautifully buoyant, intoxicatingly sensual revival, I am a convert. I finally love “Pippin” too.
    In Schwartz’s iconic opening number, “Magic to Do,” a troupe of traveling players announces that it has “miracle plays to play” for us. The chosen tale is that of Pippin, the first-born son of the Roman emperor Charlemagne (800–814), and we begin with Pippin’s return home from university. Educated and anxious to begin his adult life, the young prince embarks on a quest to discover what to do with it, something, he says, that must be “completely fulfilling.” After all,

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