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Weinstein Company Bringing ‘Pippin’ To The Screen; Will ‘Leading Player’ Come Along For The Ride?

Weinstein Company Bringing 'Pippin' To The Screen; Will 'Leading Player' Come Along For The Ride?

The Weinstein Company has inked a deal with writer/director Matthew Ponsoldt (The Spectacular NowSmashed) to adapt the Broadway musical, Pippin to the big screen.

Ponsoldt will pen the film adaptation for TWC of a Broadway musical by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson, which uses the premise of a mysterious performance troupe, led by a “Leading Player,” to tell the story of a young prince (Pippin) who goes on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. Will he choose a happy but simple life? Or will he risk everything for a singular flash of glory?

The musical premiered at the Imperial Theater on October 23, 1972, and ran for close to 2,000 performances before closing on June 12, 1977. It was directed and choreographed by the great Bob Fosse, and starred Ben Vereen as “Leading Player” who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the character in the original Broadway production.

That original show, which had a 1970s pop-style score, was reportedly partially financed by Motown Records, my research tells me, and it’s being revived on Broadway this year, with opening night set for April 25.

Patina Miller is playing “Leading Player” in the revival, reportedly the first time a woman has played the part. But since Ben Vereen originated the role in 1972, it’s always been played by a black actor, whether male, or (and now) female.

Here’s a snip of a review of Vereen’s performance from the LA Times:

As Leading Player, Vereen was a volcanic force of nature, relentlessly dancing and prowling the stage as he joked and berated other characters while carrying out Fosse’s sensual mix of traditional dance and lyrical limb twists. Commanding attention in a black tuxedo-like outfit, Vereen would be drenched in sweat within minutes of hitting the stage, and his performance overshadowed those of his cast mates.

How will The Weinstein Company/Matthew Ponsoldt film adaptation follow Broadway’s casting and story choices? We’ll see eventually…

The “Leading Player” role acts as more of a storyteller or griot, and while it’s a very crucial role in the Broadway production, it might completely disappear in the film version, as the producers and filmmaker opt to tell the story within the story.

It’s not a Broadway show that I’ve seen so I can’t offer much commentary on it; I’ll leave that to those who are much more familiar.

Here’s an uncut version of the original production with Vereen, performed in 1982 in Toronto, 10 years after its Broadway debut. I’ll watch it later to get a feel for what to expect from the film:

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