steven-schwartz

2

∞ musical numbers: On the Right Track from Pippin; music and lyrics by Steven Schwartz

If there’s a song that defines Pippin, apart from its bookends “Magic to Do” and “Finale”, it is the act 2 opener and bona fide showstopper “On the Right Track”. The Leading Player and Pippin sing an intricate, dazzling, twisted duet, Pippin oblivious to the obvious manipulation he is falling to at the hands of his great and powerful leader. It’s just the two of them on stage, everything in their dark sub-reality stripped down to the raw and primal basic communication of their two voices and bodies acting and reacting. In this exploration of the show’s key concepts, the Leading Player plays Pippin like a fiddle. He is the puppet to the Player’s sick plan. It’s not certain what the plan is, but it’s that mystery of the unknown that helps to give this show its essential twist. It is like witnessing a cat-and-mouse seduction game, compelling and telling, light and shadow, drawing Pippin and the audience in like moths to a burning flame. Unlike Pippin, we sense something is wrong but follow anyway into the unknown, our hearts running away with the circus behind the wizard. We are tantalised and intrigued and hypnotised and golden.

It is so telling that the revival uses no circus elements in this number. But of course it doesn’t. The number is elemental, basic, and a complete action of character and theme portrayed so perfectly through movement and performance that it calls for nothing more. It is so completely a part of the 1970s Broadway style of stripped-down, intimate and slinky staging, embellished with side-eyed cynicism and ambiguous morality, that “On the Right Track” may even define the aesthetic. Pippin was known during its original run to be one of the most innovative shows of its time, and this is one of the most innovatively conceived numbers in the show. In Pippin’s 2013 re-incarnation, the innovative nature of this number remains as it was like from a time capsule re-presented but still relevant. Fosse’s choreography and direction fuse with character and performer to create harmony, as the two characters develop their synchronisity with one another . This and the song’s pop appeal are strong points, although it’s hard to listen to the song itself without seeing the travelling movements of Pippin and the Leading Player in the mind’s eye. Once witnessed, the visuals are inseparable from the sounds and feelings of this unique experience. It’s theatre at its most essential level. 

It is only in these pure moments in theatre that the performer, material, and audience can be at one - and here, there’s such joy in it. The fluid movement around the stage is like a journey through stages of life, and it is delivered with so much life and humour. There’s a spontaneity to the vocal punctuations and sly glances and grins interwoven into the number, which breathes a kind of reality to the show’s other-worldly magic. The leader is working their magic, and Pippin is basking in it. The minimalist style of the number naturally allows its two performers to do what they do best, and to enjoy it. Such simplicity and such humanity may pose and answer to the question of what theatre is essentially about. A connection between performers and between them and the audience is allowed to shine through, as is genuine talent. A raw reflection of the human experience through its primal exploration of Pippin’s concept, “On the Right Track” is at the show’s cold and shrivelled heart, circulating its brilliance throughout it all.

This is the full list of all the episodes of, Broadway.com’s vlog, Fly Girl, by Lindsay Mendez. Click on episodes to be transported to the videos.

Season 1

2

∞ musical numbers: Morning Glow from the 2013 Pippin revival; directed by Diane Paulus, music and lyrics by Steven Schwartz

The original Morning Glow was a gentle, folky 70s pop ballad. The backing chorus and religious setting seemed almost out of place against the gentle chimes of the musical arrangement and sunny lyrics. Such power that was subsequently achieved in the revival was potential, but not completely present in the original. The concept of the number had not yet achieved its possible zenith. It was more a filler than a defining pillar of Pippin’s, the players’, and the audience’s journeys through the psychological whirlwind of the show. It was a necessary response to a dramatic action, but it didn’t quite fit. Morning glow was almost here.

In the revival, Morning Glow is transformed into an anthem. It is a chorus of youth uniting, attempting to define themselves, preaching expressively of faith, united in prayer. The use of the past to define the psyche of the modern youth becomes clearer in this number than any other in the show. Of course, it begins with an uncertain monologue of shaking hands and a singular, shaking voice - the voice of a generation. Then it crescendos into a sea of colour instead of grey inside the circus tent sphere of dreams and fantasy adorned in life-affirming armour. What Corner of the Sky was for the original production, Morning Glow is for the revival. Tied to its time, it serves as an anthem that defines a generation. But this time they stand together, strong and ready.

Morning Glow expresses a desire for individuality with a kind of paradoxical unity in its huge chorus that fits the poetic but abstract imagery of its lyrics. The idea of self-invention, and more vividly self-re-invention, is transformed into a heavenly virtue as only youth has the power to do. They look upwards and out towards tomorrow with a prophecy of change and self-fulfilment, as they stand still upon the stage draped in blues and purples, gazing at the flooding brightness that lights them up. They feel important and they feel tomorrow. Pippin represents these youthful desires so fully in Corner of the Sky that he became an icon, and by Morning Glow, these themes have come full circle to be represented by the entire band of players. From then on in, an abstraction and manipulation of these ideas is carried out by the force that drives the show, the Leading Player’s influence and the direction’s cynicism that appointed her God. This ensures that the clarity achieved in Corner of the Sky and Morning Glow are not again achieved until Pippin’s humbling dose of reality in the Finale.

It is possible to separate this song from the textual circumstances after which it occurs without surrendering its thematic integrity. Pippin’s murder of his own father dissolves into the background once the chorus and the music chimes in. The result of divinely appointed grand meaning assigned, finally, to his life is more significant to him than the action that caused it. At all costs, Pippin is to discover the meaning he needs, and at any cost, the Leading Player will achieve her morbid goals of death and divine destruction. What a show it turns out to be. But in the moment, this is all transcended by the anthem itself as Pippin and the chorus of players lose themselves in the glowing promise of a brighter tomorrow. 

The Leading Player is a Shakespearean witch influencing her plaything with her plan, and Pippin the Macbeth in this medieval twist of tales. Her injected reprisal of Magic to Do is eerie, interrupting the last, climactic “at last” with conniving mischief that suggests a genuine evil. The themes overarching the show are so fully realised and interwoven throughout the show that at every turn they are there, and Morning Glow is an exceptional example. The angelic anthem is put on hold as the devilish leader injects her meanings and manipulations. The audience feelS compelled to join in song and rejoice with the players, but they then become a participant in the play’s many twisted actions. A perfect final song for act one - the audience is left both moved and unsettled for what has been and what is to come.  

Pippin is adorned with regal robes and crowned King of his staged reality. It is a transformation from mere mortal to an immortal saint. In committing his bloody act, he is no longer a person, but a dark player. Looking to the bright, shining corner of the sky for which he strives, Pippin and his holy chorus become it. They become a part of the unending infinity of the burning morning fire. It is just as the Leading Player intended, and just as soon as she can crown him as immortal, she has the ability to strip it away. That which inspired him threatens to consume him in the flames of its glow. “Long live Pippin the great” indeed - and it is not until the act two Finale, a mirror reflection of Morning Glow, that the ultimate price is due to be paid for Pippin’s eternal glorifying luminescence. 

youtube

Julia Murney - Spark of Creation.

There is derisive talk among literati of the prevalence of the “workshop story,” a genre defined by Writer’s Digest as one that’s “solidly built, carefully constructed, and follows all of the guidelines of a quality story: fully realized characters, an abundance of scene, strong sense of place, conflict where something of importance is at stake, description and imagery.” From this description, of course, it sounds harmless enough, but at no literary gathering will the phrase “workshop story” be one of approbation. And yet. In the hands of a writer as talented and sensitive as Schwartz, flashy language and exotic vistas turn out not to be necessary. Solid construction can be seen for once as the real marvel of physics that it is. And the “conflict where something of importance is at stake” can seem like the only thing worth caring about.
MadCAP's All School Musical: Captian Louie

Captain Louie is the story of a young boy on Halloween night who escapes into his own imagination as a means of coping with the loneliness he feels when he moves to a new neighborhood. Of its initial production, The New York Times said Captain Louie captures “the sound and rhythm of music that runs through childhood fantasies with a book that conveys the communicative magic of the original story.” With music by Steven Schwartz (‘Wicked’, 'Pippin’ etc.).

MadCAP will be holding auditions at their studios (214 N.Henry St, Suite 201) on Friday January 9th and Wednesday January 14th. MadCAP auditions are super chill, come with a cut of a song and a monologue prepared, and everyone who signs up is guaranteed a role. Visit our website to register for a time slot.

We hope to see you there!