THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Book and Lyrics by Nan Knighton
Music by Frank Wildhorn
Based on the novel “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy
Artisan Center Theatre
Director – Clay White
Stage Manager – Marina Fabian
Music Director – H. Richard Gwozdz
Choreographer – Nicole Holbrook
Costume Design – Nita Cadenhead
Asst Director/Technical Design –Nate Davis
CAST (from the reviewed performance)
Sir Percy Blakeney – Tim Brawner
Marguerite St. Just – Elisa Danielle
Armand St. Just – Clint Gilbert
Marie – Lynsey Hale
Chauvelin – Kirk Corley
Robespierre – Terry Shaw
St. Cyr/Prince of Wales – John Tillman
Mercier – Sean Massey
Coupeau – Carrol Savage
Ozzy – Dan Nolen, Jr.
Elton – David Seil
Dewhurst – Wesley Vaughan
Ben – Matthew Pandolfo
Farleigh – Troy Pruett
Jessup – Charles Savage
Ensemble – Stephanie Campbell, Patricia Cannon, Meg Irwin, Heather Sturdevant, Melissa Tillman, Rusty Burns-Perrotta, Kristina Bain, Jack Bledsoe,
Reviewed Performance 3/8/2014
Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Critic for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN
The Scarlet Pimpernel, produced by the Artisan Center Theater, is a treat for all ages. The musical has singing, dancing, swashbuckling sword fights and intrigue. It is masterfully crafted and the end result was nothing less than phenomenal.
The story takes place around the time of the French Revolution and centers on Sir Percy Blakeney’s attempt to rescue victims from the guillotine. The new French regime is determined to put to death all those it deems enemies of the state. Unable to stand by and watch the atrocities unfold as innocents are put to death, English aristocrat Blakeney and his band of men form a group in order to rescue those found guilty of subversion against the state. The group, headed by Sir Percy in the guise of the hero The Scarlet Pimpernel, don foppish attitudes in order to throw off suspicion as to their true intent. Meanwhile, the cutthroat Citizen Chauvelin heads the French government’s efforts at routing out The Scarlet Pimpernel, using a former French spy, Marguerite St. Just, who happens to be Sir Percy’s new bride.
The costume design by Nita Cadenhead was absolutely spot on and perfectly attuned to the time period. The women’s dresses were flowing and ornate. The common clothes worn by the ensemble cast were rugged and disheveled, while the fancy ball outfits worn by Sir Percy and his dandy crew were brightly colored and earned every inch of “summery” in the musical.
The playbill didn’t credit the Set or Light Designer(s), but Technical Design was credited to Nate Davis. The set design was amazing. The stage transformed from England to France with a simple guillotine that lowered from the ceiling. The large wooden frame was both menacing and inspiring. Additionally, a small revolving stage in the center of the main stage allowed the audience on all sides to see the actors sing and dance and get a glimpse of their expressions and movements. The horse carriage simulation within the north wall was impressive. Lighting design added to the overall mood and ambience of the story. The flash of colored lights during bigger action scenes, as well as focused white light during musical number solos added another delight for the senses and enhanced the story.
Musical direction by H. Richard Gwozdz was perfectly in tune with the story and flowed effortlessly throughout the theater. Choreography by Nicole Holbrook was well done. The ballroom scene was outstanding as the dancers spun around back and forth across the revolving stage. However, the fight scenes at the end could have used a bit more rehearsal.
Tim Brawner did an excellent job as Sir Percy Blakeney. His singing was extraordinary and his acting superb. Brawner flowed effortlessly between the strong hero and a foppish English aristocrat. When Brawner wasportraying the dandy, Sir Percy, his mannerisms and tone were very effeminate. However, he was able to quickly convert to a strong male hero archetype when he was portraying The Scarlet Pimpernel. Brawner’s rendition of “Into the Fire” was truly inspirational as he and his crew gallantly danced around Percy’s sitting room.
Elisa Danielle, as Marguerite St. Just, was wonderful. Danielle’s singing was top notch. She sang “I’ll Forget You” beautifully. The sweeping refrains and the sorrow that fairly dripped from her body as she wept was heartfelt. One of the most impressive songs in the musical was “The Riddle”. Marguerite, Sir Percy and Chauvelin all sang while atop the revolving stage. The angst, drama and tension could be cut with a knife.
Kirk Corley did an amazing job as Chauvelin, the cutthroat citizen of France bent on routing out subversives. Corley’s acting was simply superb, portraying a menacing presence every time he took the stage. Whether he was placing people in the guillotine or trying to force Marguerite to aid him in his quest for the Scarlet Pimpernel, Corley’s intensity in his facial expressions denoted focus and anger. However, when Corley sang “Falcon in the Dive” you could almost feel sorry for Chauvelin. Corley’s tone and manner was more of a man that was thrust in to an unlikely but necessary role.
As a whole, the Pimpernel’s band of dandies was well played by Dan Nolen, Jr., David Seil, Wesley Vaughan, Matthew Pandolfo, Troy Pruett and Charles Savage. The singing ability of this crew was phenomenal. “Into the Fire” was thrilling and inspirational, while “The Creation of Man” was side-splitting.
David Seil was hilarious in everything he did. From singing to dancing, Seil reveled in his role as the foppish Elton. Seil was so outlandish and over-the-top he could single handedly be considered the comic relief of the musical. His mannerisms and the way he pranced were perfect for the character and truly defined the role. Wesley Vaughan as Dewhurst and Matthew Pandolfo as Ben had excellent singing voices and added a deep range to the ensemble pieces.
With a rousing musical score and romantic storyline there is no wonder why The Scarlet Pimpernel is a beloved classic of musical theater. Artisan Center Theater did an amazing job with this masterpiece. The music, lighting and choreography, coupled with masterful acting and poignant singing, provided a romantic and inspirational evening. This is romance and swashbuckling intrigue done right.
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Artisan Center Theater
418 E. Pipeline Road, Hurst, Texas 76053
Runs through April 12th
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening at 7:30 pm, and Saturday matinee at 3:00 pm Weekday tickets are $16.00 and $7.00 for children. Weekend tickets are $20.00, $18.00 for seniors/students, and $9.00 for children.For tickets and information please call 817-284-1200 or go to http://www.artisanct.com/