Anyone who wants to see the Broadway musical The Scarlet Pimpernel with its original staging and cast intact better hurry: The old version of the Frank Wildhorn tuner gives its last performance Oct. 1. The show will then close down Oct. 2-9, and reopen with show veteran Douglas Sills and new stars Rachel York and Rex Smith. Smith and York replace the outgoing Terrence Mann and Christine Andreas.
There is still no word as to the textual or musical changes new director Robert Longbottom has made to the production, but sources say that certain songs may be deleted and new ones inserted.
York most recently starred on Broadway opposite Julie Andrews in the musical Victor/Victoria. She also starred with Andrews in the Manhattan Theatre Club's Sondheim revue, Putting It Together. Rex Smith is perhaps best known in stage circles for his performance as Frederic in the 1981 New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Pirates of Penzance.
The cast of Pimpernel has, during the month of September, rehearsed the new version of the musical during the day while performing the old one at night.
Radio City Entertainment and Ted Forstmann -- who the summer bought the musical from its original producers -- brought in Longbottom (Side Show) to restage the show in an unorthodox effort to shore up the ailing musical's fortunes. 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 Christine Andreas told PBOL 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."
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, too." Hawkins declined to comment on any specific details concerning Pimpernel's makeover, or whether the new production would be less expensive to run.