He's been "into the fire" since Oct. 7, 1997 -- the first Broadway preview of the first version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Since then he's survived the show's initial, blistering reviews, a revamp, a reopening, new co-stars and new (mostly better) reviews. Now it's time for Douglas Sills, the Percy in Pimpernel, to hang up his sword and unbuckle his swash.
Sills will leave the Frank Wildhorn-Nan Knighton musical March 7, 1999, according to show spokesperson Michael Hartman (of the Boneau/Bryan-Brown office). Sources for actor-singer Ron Bohmer (including his official website) say he is a leading candidate to replace Sills, though Hartman said several people are being considered, and no one is confirmed yet. Bohmer's agent at the Peter Strain Agency told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 22) Bohmer was in negotiations for the role, but nothing has yet been confirmed.
Bohmer has toured the country as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard, Alex in Aspects of Love and as Enjolras in Les Miserables, a role he also performed on Broadway. Most recently he appeared in the musical Bed and Sofa at Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre Company.
Back in November 1998, Broadway's Scarlet Pimpernel received a new lease on life. The lease on its theatre, though, is more limited. Pimpernel will have to vacate the Minskoff Theatre in late spring to make way for the new musical version of the John Travolta film Saturday Night Fever. A spokesman for the production told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 14) Pimpernel is planning to stay on Broadway rather than leave town and hit the road. A tour of Pimpernel is still being planned for the U.S., but producers are also actively searching for a new home for the Broadway production. No theatre has yet been decided upon, said the spokesman.
A strong candidate is the newly-free Gershwin Theatre, a Broadway musical house with even more seats than the Minskoff. The Gershwin's most recent tenant, the Public Theatre production of On the Town, closed Jan. 17 after a brief run. Sources say the venue is also a leading candidate for this year's Tony Award show in early June.
The Scarlet Pimpernel certainly had a better fall in 1998 than it did the year before. When the musical adaptation of the classic Baroness Orczy novel opened in November 1997, the critics roundly thumped it. The following months brought news of half-filled houses and growing financial losses.
Last summer, however, in an unprecedented move, Cablevision and Ted Forstmann bought out the old producers, brought in new director Robert Longbottom and recast two of the leads. The revamped production reopened in November 1998 to markedly better reviews and improved box office figures
Significant changes to the production since its revamping include opening the show with "Storybook" instead of "Madame Guillotine," thus bringing Marguerite front and center right at the beginning, and opening the show with a brighter, more tuneful song than the ironic and grisly "Mme G," which now comes in the second slot. "Believe" has been dropped altogether, as have "Vivez!" and, surprisingly, "Only Love," which was initially being pushed as one of the production's more saleable pop tunes. Instead, Marguerite now sings "I'll Forget You."
Choreography has been added and changed to the Wedding Dance sequence, "The Creation of Man" number, and to the Gavotte at the Prince of Wales' dress-up ball. Also, the title song has been shifted from the middle of the first act to the opening number of the second, now sung by masked guests at the aforementioned ball. A late second act "Lullaby" sung by two characters named Helene and Chloe has been jettisoned -- as have Helene and Chloe.
The cast features Rachel York and Rex Smith. Also in the cast are James Bohanek, Stephanie Bast, Pamela Burrell, Nick Cavarra, Nat Chandler, David Cromwell, James Dybas and Harvey Evans.
For tickets and information on The Scarlet Pimpernel at the Minskoff Theatre call (212) 307-4100.