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The original Pippin returns to 'Pippin'

"It’s like getting back to your ancestral home where you grew up as a kid."

“Pippin” is back! Even after its initial Broadway debut in 1972, a 2013 revival took home four Tony Awards and is now in the midst of a world tour. The show plays the Boston Opera House from Feb. 2 to Feb. 14, and we chatted with John Rubinstein who played Pippin in the original production and returns as King Charlemagne for this tour.

The new show incorporates acrobatics and circus arts into its choreography, a departure from the 1972 dance-heavy production.

“There’s still a lot of dancing using [Bob] Fosse’s style… mostly incorporating original choreography,” says Rubenstein.

The seasoned actor, 69, is originally from Los Angeles and began his Broadway career in “Pippin" asPipppin in the 1972 production. Since then, his stage and TV credits include “Fools,” “Ragtime,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Parenthood,” while also composing musical scores for film and theater.

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Rubenstein chats with us about his return to the show, Fosse's legacy and touring the U.S..

Do you think this interpretation does justice to the story?

Absolutely. The story is very strong. It’s a show that can be done in all kinds of different formats. “Pippin”, even though it talks about Charlemagne, can take place anywhere, even on the moon. It can be re-imagined by any director.

What can previous fans of “Pippin” recognize in this new production?

[Choreographer] Chet Walker was in the original production’s last year — and [he] worked with Fosse on a number of other shows after that and so he’s very well versed in both the original and in Fosse’s basic approach. Here, he’s combined what he remembers with the new circus elements. Audiences can definitely recognize Fosse’s style.

The main difference is that the Leading Player is played by a woman. Historically, I think this is the only time the same role in a Broadway musical has won a Tony Award for its performer by both a man and a woman.

How is it coming back to the show?

It’s wonderful. It’s like getting back to your ancestral home where you grew up as a kid. The house looks very different and there are different people living there. But it’s still your house and your memories. It’s both completely new and familiarly old.

What has been your favorite part of performing “Pippin”?

It’s been an honor to tour the U.S. and bring it to people who can’t always make it to Broadway. It’s been a wonderful treat to see and feel the enthusiasm of audiences across the country. I think everyone should see it.

 
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