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'Chicago' Team Board Weinstein Company 'Pippin' Adaptation. But Will 'Leading Player' Make It?

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by Natasha Greeves
December 10, 2013 5:37 PM
6 Comments
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Pippin, Vereen, Miller

An update on a story we first alerted you to back in April: The Weinstein Company will reteam with the same pair the company worked with on the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago (Craig Zadan and Neil Meron), to adapt another Broadway musical, Pippin for the big screen.

Previously announce, writer/director Matthew Ponsoldt (The Spectacular NowSmashed) is writing the film adaptation, 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.

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 closely will The Weinstein Company/Craig Zadan and Neil Meron/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, if the producers and filmmaker opt to tell the story within the story.

Here's a clip featuring Patina Miller and 2 members of the Broadway musical's cast, performing on David Letterman's show:

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6 Comments

  • lee | December 13, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    They'd lose some of the show's best tunes!..Hope they don't forget Fosse in the choreography like Chicago.

  • Roof Pounder | December 12, 2013 1:56 PMReply

    The entire concept of Pippin is as a stage show. It will require an enormous overhaul if adapted for the screen. And with such an overhaul, and without a Leading Player, it won't be Pippin. Also, why does race have to enter into the casting at all? Any of the roles can be played by actors of any ethnicity without affecting the show's story or theme.

  • Geneva Girl | December 11, 2013 2:27 PMReply

    I saw this play on Broadway when I was 13. I was enthralled and played the album to death. I'm looking forward to seeing this and am very curious how it will be adapted.

  • slb | December 11, 2013 12:15 PMReply

    No snark intended but this show started on Broadway in March 2013. Why does the author say, " it's being revived on Broadway this year, with opening night set for April 25."?

  • Ava | December 10, 2013 7:23 PMReply

    Patina Miller is a dynamo.

  • ben | December 10, 2013 5:43 PMReply

    James Ponsoldt

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