6:55 PM: Curtain - Time To Come Back

News   6:55 PM: Curtain - Time To Come Back
 
Places," calls Production Stage Manager Steven Beckler over the backstage PA system. With practiced calm the three dozen-plus actors move into their carefully-rehearsed spots for the opening number, some in the wings, many on the stage.
Clockwise from top left: Alan Campbell and Glenn Close; Walter Cronkite; Christopher Plummer and wife; Brian Stokes Mitchell
Clockwise from top left: Alan Campbell and Glenn Close; Walter Cronkite; Christopher Plummer and wife; Brian Stokes Mitchell Photo by Photo credit: Starla Smith

Places," calls Production Stage Manager Steven Beckler over the backstage PA system. With practiced calm the three dozen-plus actors move into their carefully-rehearsed spots for the opening number, some in the wings, many on the stage.

Rain has delayed some of the evening's celebrities, so the curtain has been held. According to scouts, Regis and Rosie still aren't here!

Nevertheless, Melissa Hart, in full costume, was standing 20 feet from the stage, with her arms outstretched. "It's . . . perfect," she said. Hart, who played Sally Bowles in the national touring company of Cabaret in the 1960s, is making her return to Broadway in Pimpernel after a 27-year absence. In between she raised children, taught at universities in Florida and Pennsylvania, and now, here she is, on another Broadway opening night.

"I just felt it was time to come back," she said.

So, what's so perfect about it? "The legacy of Broadway is in this company," Hart said. "There's so many people like James [Dybas] who have been on Broadway, and who are back on Broadway. . ."

Suddenly, behind her, the first notes of the Frank Wildhorn/Kim Scharnberg overture can be heard, played on the hunting horn. She taps the reporter on the hand.

". . . and now I'm going to get in my chair!" and she scurries off to take her place.

The show's first song, "Madame Guillotine," is designed to dramatize at the top of the show how mob rule has taken over post-Revolutionary France, and innocents are being led to the chopping block. It's a very serious moment.

One of the chorus members whispers, "Watch this! This is something we do every night. Unseen by the audience behind the still-closed scarlet-and golf curtain, about a half dozen actors uniformed as French soldiers gather in a circle beneath the towering guillotine prop, raise their rifles, cross bayonets above the center of their circle, and -- as the overture reaches its most stirring and martial moment -- scamper around their circle gaily, their faces filled with impish rapture. As the overture ends so does their lighthearted ritual. They snap to attention, clap serious expressions on their faces, and take their first breath to sing.

The curtain rises . . .

-- By Robert Viagas

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