Pippin is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a script by Roger O. Hirson. It tells the fictionalized story of Pippin the Hunchback who, in the musical is not a hunchback, but simply an awkward young man.
The main theme of the show is one of the relative importance of roles. Pippin seeks an extraordinary role in life, an finds in the end that there is nothing more important he can do than to be a husband and a father to a widow and her orphan son. It lacks the fanfare and fame that he set out to find, but makes a contribution nonetheless, and gives him happiness. He chooses to return to the widow, with whom he stayed earlier as a farm hand in exchange for room and board when he had believed he was taking a break from finding his extraordinary purpose.
- They showed me crimson, gold and lavender,
- A shining parade,
- But there's no color I can have on earth,
- That won't finally fade.
- When I wanted worlds to paint,
- And costumes to wear,
- I think it was here,
- 'Cause it never was there.
The show begins by introducing us to a band of travelernig players, and their leader, credited as the "Lead Player," who is arguably an avatar for the devil. We then meet their mark, a young man named Pippin who enters, singing about how he wishes to find his "Corner of the Sky," his spectacular role in history.
The Lead Player offers him a role as a lauded soldier, but once he sees past the glorification of War, to the true hardship of being a soldier, Pippin no longer wants that role. He is then tempted with "the flesh," but finds himself horrified by the vulgarity of it (represented on stage by dancing.) He is then offered the chance to be a revolutionary, overthrowing his father, the King, to end all his rules but finds that the rules were needed, and begs the Lead Player to reverse his actions and restore the King.
Dejected, he takes some time to work as a farm hand, milking cows, and carting hay for a young widow, Catherine and her small boy, Theo. He takes a liking to them, despite himself, and begins to act as a father figure for Theo, comforting him after the death of his duck. He eventually resumes his quest for greatness though, and leaves them, to pursue the Lead Player's next role for him.
There, the lead player and his troupe (who have played all the roles other than Pippin in this false world since the top of the show,) beckon Pippin to a pyre, claiming that he aught set himself alight, that it is his chance to shine as bright as the sun. He is nearly convinced, until the player who portrayed Catherine steps forward, defying the Lead Player, and he realizes that he was happiest working on her farm.
Angered, the Lead Player threatens to end the show if Pippin does not comply, but he remains steadfast as the Players pack up all the props and costumes and leave Pippin, Catherine and Theo on a bare stage. Pippin then realizes that he's given up only the superficial things, and has everything he needs in Catherine and Theo.