Christine Andreas will not be staying on for the reworked version of Broadway's The Scarlet Pimpernel but will give her last performance Oct. 4, the actress told Playbill On-Line. "[The musical's] taken a very wild route," she said. "It's the most unusual job I've ever had. We weren't well received, but we played to standing ovations."
"The producers have come in with new ideas about the role of Marguerite that don't include me," she said. "And that is fine. I'm leaving at the end of my contract. A year is a really long time. It's been wonderful. It's a wonderful company. I feel like I'm leaving on the crest of it."
Radio City Entertainment and Ted Forstmann -- who recently bought the musical from its original producers -- have brought in director Robert Longbottom (Side Show) to restage the show in an unorthodox effort to shore up the ailing musical's fortunes. Radio City Entertainment Senior Vice President Tim Hawkins confirmed to Playbill On-Line (Aug. 13) that Longbottom would collaborate with Pimpernel composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Nan Knighton on a new version of the show.
Radio City has not elaborated on the nature of the alterations, but Andreas said the planned revisions were ones she had sought for some time. "These new guys are going to make changes we wished happened a year ago," she said, including plot restructuring meant to better support the musical's major characters. "My character is rather underwritten," remarked Andreas. "It's really because of that unbalance that I'm ready to go."
Andreas said she believed Douglas Sills, who plays the title role, would remain with the show. "It looks like he'll have a situation that will be good for him," she said. The fate of the show's third star, Terrence Mann, could not be learned, though reports have him leaving as well. Mann's agent and Radio City Entertainment did not return phone calls.
Hawkins told PBOL on Aug. 13 that the musical's original director, Peter Hunt, would not take an active role in the reconception, although his ideas on the matter have been solicited. "Peter is in California and focusing on TV projects," he said. "He's a part of the process, but not on a day-to-day basis."
Asked if Nan Knighton had been doing rewrites, Hawking replied, "Nan's doing a lot of work with [Longbottom] reshaping elements of the show. Frank Wildhorn is working on it to." Hawkins declined to comment on any specific details concerning Pimpernel's makeover, or whether the new production would be less expensive to run.
The cast of Pimpernel will, during the month of September, rehearse the new version of the musical during the day while performing the old one at night. The production will then shut down for a few days during the first week of October. "We plan to have the new version on stage the week of the 12th of October," said Hawkins. If the plan runs on schedule, that would mean audiences would get there first glimpse of the refashioned musical on Tues., Oct. 13.
As for Andreas, she will begin a concert tour in the fall, beginning with a November date in St. Croix, following by stops in Europe. Andreas' solo album Love Is Good was released last fall. "It's time to take all that energy and put it in other parts of my career," she said.
In other recent Scarlet news, Radio City Entertainment, a division of Cablevision Systems Corporation, along with entrepreneur Ted Forstmann, recently purchased Pimpernel. The unusual move, which suggests Wall Street more than 42nd Street, marks the first time an operating Broadway show has been bought out by a corporation, according to an article in Variety.
Cablevision and Forstmann, one of Pimpernel's producers, bought the musical from its three other original backers Pierre Cossette, Bill Haber, and Kathleen Raitt, and thus control all stage and broadcast rights to the show. Cablevision has, in recent years, expanded its interests in live entertainment. In late 1997, it bought the company that owns Radio City Music Hall. It is also the force behind the annual and lucrative Madison Square Garden productions of A Christmas Carol and The Wizard of Oz, and co-producer of the upcoming Broadway musical Ýe.
"This is part of our commitment to develop and expand the very best in live and televised entertainment, Pelcher said. "Combined with our distribution resources and marketing potential we can work the develop the show."
Cablevision -- which owns interests in the Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports New York -- boasts 2.6 million New York area cable customers. Marc Lustgarten, chairman of the board of MSG and vice-chairman and director of Cablevision, suggested that Cablevision customers might be offered "bundled" discount deals for entertainment and live events, and may be able to buy tickets through Cablevision's electronics chain Nobody Beats the Wiz.
The impetus behind the sudden change in ownership is unclear, but one reason could be the show's box-office status. Since opening last November to mixed reviews, the show has struggled to find an audience. Variety reported the show is losing $100,000 per week.
When asked the reasons behind the takeover, Raitt told Playbill On-Line (July 23), "Ted Furstmann and [Madison Square Garden CEO and president] David Checketts decided they could take [the show] to the next step."
The new ownership deal is a 50-50 split between Forstmann and Cablevision; Raitt, Cossette and Haber are no longer involved in the day to-day operations of Pimpernel.