Rehearsals are now underway for the new Broadway musical, The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Douglas Sills, Christine Andreas and Terrence Mann. With music and lyrics by Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde), the production starts previews Oct. 7 and opens Nov. 9.
Andreas plays Marguerite; Mann is Chauvelin; Sills is the Pimpernel.
Original choreographer Walter Painter, who left the show in August, has been replaced by Adam Pelty, making his Broadway choreographing debut. Pelty, who appeared in Cyrano: The Musical and Steel Pier - also performs in Pimpernel.
Newly announced for the cast are Bill Bowers, Dave Clemmons, R.F. Daley, Ed Dixon, William Thomas, Allen Fitzpatrick (York Theatre's 1996 Mata Hari), James Judy (A Christmas Carol, J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation at En Garde Arts) and Ron Sharpe.
Upon seeing the audition of actor Sills, composer Frank Wildhorn said, "From a musical point of view, there are few things more exciting than when someone who you don't know or when someone that you've never heard of, walks into a room and totally blows you away! Such was the case with Douglas when he sang for me." Gilles Chiasson recently joined the cast as Armand, brother of Marguerite. Formerly an ensemble member of Broadway's Rent, Chiasson also appeared in the national tours of Les Miz and Forever Plaid. His regional credits include the O'Neill Theatre Center, Tennessee Rep and CT's Goodspeed Opera House.
Mann was the original Beast in Beauty And The Beast and played Rum Tum Tugger in Cats, Javert in Les Miz. He played Scrooge in the 1995 mounting of A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden. The same year he appeared in the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth thriller, Getting Away With Murder. Andreas played Gretchen Herzallerliebst in the 1993 George Street Playhouse musical, The Fields Of Ambrosia. She also appeared in the Marsha Norman play Sarah And Abraham at the same theatre.
A Broadway newcomer, Sills starred in the first national tours of Into The Woods as Cinderella's Prince, and in The Secret Garden as Neville. His television work includes appearances on "Party of Five," "Sisters," and "Coach."
The Minskoff Theatre box office opens Sept. 8: (212) 307-4100. As reported by the Yahoo website and confirmed by production spokesperson Michael Hartman (of Boneau/Bryan-Brown), rehearsals began for the show Aug. 4.
Said Pimpernel director Peter Hunt in a statement about Sills, "After a long and exhaustive search, an actor with a name we had never heard appeared in a rehearsal studio in Burbank. He looked the part. Then we discovered he could sing the part, and, lo and behold, he could act the part -- we knew we had our Pimpernel!"
Like its adventurous lead character, The Scarlet Pimpernel isn't being shy about publicity: King Displays is constructing a billboard for the show which they claim will be the largest billboard ever to advertise a Broadway production.
At 156 by 42 feet, the marquee will be double the size of the average highway sign (60X20) and essentially fill the entire city block on the west side of Broadway between 44th and 45th St.
Asked if the producers needed a special ordinance to put up such a huge advertisement, a spokesperson for New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told Playbill On-Line that since the billboard will occupy the windows of the theatre itself, "it's their own property. If they were selling something other than themselves, there might be a problem, but that's not the case here."
The morning after the April 28 Broadway opening of Jekyll &;Hyde - Wildhorn's first complete Broadway score -- he began a week of auditions for Scarlet Pimpernel.
In January, Ed Urban of Hughes Moss Casting told Playbill On-Line that at a reading of the show a few months back, Carolee Carmello had the female lead, while Greg Zerkle played the Pimpernel.
Like J&H, Pimpernel is based on a 19th century novel -- this one by Baroness Orczy. It's the swashbuckling adventure story of hero who aids victims of the French Revolution while posing as a British nobleman.
Also like J&H, Pimpernel has survived during its gestation period on the strength of a CD recording of the score. Pimpernel's was released in 1992 as a concept album during the time the show was in development by the Nederlander Organization in New York.
Co-producer Kathleen Raitt said that extensive rewrites by Wildhorn and librettist Knighton have been completed. Eight of the songs on the CD have been dropped. The ones that remain in the forthcoming show are "Into the Fire," "They Seek Him Here," "When I Look at You," "Madame Guillotine," "The Riddle," "The Creator of Man," "Storybook" and "The Pimpernel Fanfare." There is a completely new title song.
Librettist/lyricist Knighton is also scripting a stage adaptation of the Bee Gees-scored film, Saturday Night Fever, set for the London Palladium April 1998. Wildhorn and J&H lyricist, Leslie Bricusse also wrote some of the songs for Victor/Victoria.
A 1992 studio recording of the score on Angel records features J&H star Linda Eder, along with Chuck Wagner, Dave Clemmons and Peabo Bryson.
A pimpernel is a small red flower found in the English countryside. In the musical (and Orczy's 11 original novels), the pimpernel is the crest of Sir Percy Blakeney's family - he has it on a ring which he uses to seal all secret documents he sends to the members of his League. Since his secret band sends a note with the seal each time they free a prisoner from the guillotine, they become known as the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
A spokesperson from Atlantic Records told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 26) the release date for the Pimpernel CD was "very tentatively" scheduled for Jan/Feb 1998.