In Magic to Do, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Pippin's opening, two-time Pulitzer Prize jury member Elysa Gardner turns her attention to this innovative show, the musical retelling of the story of Prince Pippin, son of Charlemagne, and his quest for an "extraordinary life." Magic to Do dives deep into the legendary clashes, backstage drama, and incredible artistic synergy that produced one of Broadway's most influential musicals, a show that paved the way for the pop-informed musicals that we know and love today. Full of big personalities, brilliant creative minds, and never-before-told stories, Magic to Do is an intimate look at a moment in history, a time and a place in which popular culture was as defined by conflict—between the young and the old, idealism and cynicism, creation and destruction—as anything else. Gardner draws out this friction through her examination of the creative struggles between Pippin's director/choreographer, the iconic Bob Fosse, for whom the show would mark a massive career resurgence, and its young composer/lyricist, Stephen Schwartz (of Wicked fame), who was making his Broadway debut.
Magic to Do, named for the opening song of the musical, clearly marks the lasting cultural significance of Pippin, which derives in large part from the timelessness of the search for self, one that presents itself anew to each succeeding generation, accounting for the show's enduring popularity around the world. Infused with R&B sounds and a universal message, it is fair to say that, without Pippin, there is no Spring Awakening, Dear Evan Hansen, or even Hamilton.
Elysa Gardner has written about theater and music for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Town & Country, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York and USA Today, among other publications, and has been a contributor to VH1 and NPR. She is a theater critic for The New York Sun and New York Stage Review and hosts the podcast “Stage Door Sessions” for Broadway Direct. Book contributions include the introduction to U2: The Rolling Stone Files and a chapter on Taylor Swift for Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives. Elysa is a board member of the Drama Desk and has served on the drama jury for the Pulitzer Prize twice, most recently as chair. She lives in New York City with her husband, daughter, and dog.
"For we longtime fans of Pippin, this musical is a beloved corner of the sky. Elysa Gardner's loving and insightful celebration is a fitting tribute to one of the best shows of its era. You'll feel the 'Morning Glow' in every word."—Chris Jones, chief critic, Chicago Tribune/New York Daily News
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 07 Sep 2022
"Stephen Schwartz has won many awards for his musical theater creations including "Pippin", "Godspell", "Wicked" and many more.
In 1964/5 Stephen Schwartz was a freshman and I was a sophomore in the Drama Department at Carnegie Mellon University, where he spent time in the practice rooms playing music while I was next door sewing in the costume shop for the next main stage production.
My 'so-called' career skirted the edges of many of the memories in Elysa Gardner's fascinating insight into musical theater and the complexity of getting to what is hoped will be a successful Broadway run. There were so many recognizable names and places. I stayed at a famous old hotel in New York City that was mentioned. My drama teacher was quoted. I saw the production of "Godspell" at the Ford Theater. And on and on.
Learning about the problems of a young Stephen Schwartz, who wanted to stress the singing, battling the legendary Bob Fosse's emphasis on dance, led to a discussion of how Broadway shows have changed over the years. Today we have triple threats: performers who can sing, dance, and act. "Pippin" and "Godspell" pointed the way to a less traditional musical theater eventually leading to the rock musicals offered today.
A lot of information one might never seek, turns out to be surprisingly interesting. The author has included the people who work behind the scenes and how they create the magic eventually seen onstage.
On YouTube you can check out some of the performances. My favorite is the original "Pippin" opening number with Ben Vereen, the black background, and the white gloved hands hanging in space.
I have always felt a close connection to "Pippin" since a community production used my duck (a puppet) as THE duck. He has a place of honor in my office.
One of my top ten books of 2022.
"Pippin" includes an index, brief reading list, and photographs.
Thank you, #NetGalley/#Rowman & Littlefield, Applause for an honest review! It was a pleasure to read and review!"—Ann Holt, retired librarian
"Magic to Do illustrates how the backstory behind the creation of Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin is every bit as entertaining as the show itself. Elysa Gardner’s account of the making of this classic show is rife with drama and surprises, particularly when she details the tension between the composer, Mr. Schwartz, and the director, the legendary (and infamously dictatorial) Bob Fosse. In fact, I wish that there was a book like this for every one of my favorite musicals."—Will Friedwald, critic, Wall Street Journal and author, Sinatra!: The Song Is You
“A dishy, fascinating look at how creative powerhouses can change the world, and the dirty work it can take to produce truly meaningful art.”—Town and Country
"An intimate and insightful addition for die-hard fans of Pippin, musical theater, and pop culture history."-Library Journal
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 06 Sep 2022
"As a Bob Fosse fan, this book was informative and made me wish for a time machine. I’ve seen Pippin on stage only once, the Diane Paulus revival, so I wasn’t overly familiar with it. The author, herself a fan, does a great job of explaining its history and creative process. There is information about the team that brought it to life, their fights, struggles and successes, and talks about not only Fosse and Stephen Schwartz, but the producers and cast. Since time travel is not an option, at least it’s lucky that we have the internet. Watching the original numbers available on Youtube worked wonders to understand everything that Gardner explored. She also delves a little into other famous shows that the team created, including Godspell, Cabaret and, my favorite musical ever, Chicago. The author explores the cultural and political background that made the show possible, the state of Broadway at the time, and really drives home how innovative Pippin was. To other readers, I recommend watching the original “Magic to do” number just after reading the hard work, ingenuity and fairy dust that made it possible. Five jazz hands to this book!
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#Rowman & Littlefield, Applause!"—Elisa Rambacher, consumer reviewer
"Through her cultural anthropology and extensive interviews, Gardner provides singular insight into the creation of this arresting, weird and somewhat nonsensical piece of theater. But “Magic to Do” is for more than just Fosse completists and those who save their old Playbills. It allows a rare glimpse into the perils and joys of collaboration and the indefinable alchemy necessary to develop any piece of art that transcends generations."-The New York Times
Last updated on 27 Oct 2022
""No costumes? No makeup? No colored lights? And... and no magic?"
With a threat and an apology to the audience, the Leading Player of Pippin (eternally Ben Vereen in my mind) addresses the crowd looking for someone to perform The Finale. That Leading Player has always been Fosse's devilish take on Stephen Schwartz's musical through his original direction and choreography. Elysa Gardner's "Magic To Do" documents the life of this piece, which as much as I sometimes wish was not seared line for line in my brain, exists in its entirety. From its original life as "Pippin Pippin" to the inclusion of Fosse's writers braintrust to punch up the book, "Magic To Do" invites you to come and waste an hour or two as well as the show itself does.
Come for the discussion of the war over "but happy", stay for the anecdote involving David Copperfield (pre name change!) literally teaching Ben Vereen some new tricks."—Alex Nagler, Elementary Media