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June 24, 2017:

The Scarlet Pimpernel reviewed by Rob Stevens


Frank Wildhorn and Nan Knighton’s musical The Scarlet Pimpernel opened on Broadway in 1997. The production was closed down twice and opened in revised versions before closing after 772 performances. A National Tour launched in 2002 a month after the Broadway run ended, headed by newly minted Broadway star Douglas Sills. The tour played the Ahmanson Theatre locally and featured lavish and colorful sets and costumes. As part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Contempo Productions presented a stripped down no frills version with a cast of nine. On the miniscule stage at The Underground Theatre, director Katharine McDonough skillfully guided her cast through this tale of deception, depravity, friendship and heroic endeavors set during the bloody days of the French Revolution. Marguerite St. Just (Caitlin Gallogly), a star of the now banned French theatre is making her final performance before marrying Sir Percy Blakeney (Stanton Morales) and moving to England. Her former lover, a key cog in the Revolution, Citizen Chauvelin (Marc Ginsburg), is not pleased by her deception. Threatening blackmail, he calls in a favor which soon alienates Marguerite from her new husband. Percy is appalled at all the beheadings in France and soon organizes a vigilante group comprised of his friends to rescue prisoners from the guillotine. It’s a rousing adventure story set to a soaring score. Without the elaborate sets and costumes, Knighton’s fast-paced book and the power ballad score really stand out and prove to be utterly involving and entertaining. Morales has a lot of fun playing the foppish Percy to hide his secret identity. He also proves to have a stellar voice when delivering such tunes as “She Was There.” Caitlin Gallogly skillfully threads her way through the many emotions Marguerite endures as the plot twists and turns against her. Gallogly also possesses an amazing voice that easily handles such tender ballads as “When I Look at You” and “Only Love.” Her tender duet with her brother Armand (Adam Trent), “You Are My Home,” is touchingly delivered. Marc Ginsburg oozes danger every minute he is on stage as Chauvelin and his powerful performances of “Madame Guillotine” and “Falcon in the Dive” are showstoppers. Even his seductive “Where’s the Girl?” is filled with an aggressive, rough menace. The chorus is in fine voice and displays comic flair as they quickly morph from one character to another, English to French, in such numbers as “The Creation of Man” and “They Seek Him Here.” McDonough and her cast also pull off some lively period choreography on that postage stamp sized stage. Sean Alexander Bart did a great job with his musical direction and the two member band sounded great. It’s a shame The Scarlet Pimpernel only received three performances. Here’s hoping for a quick revival.



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