It's "into the fire" again for the company of The Scarlet Pimpernel . The newly cast and reworked version of Broadway's swashbuckling "musical adventure" premieres at the 2 PM matinee Oct. 10.
The show, which opened at the Minskoff Theatre Nov. 9, 1997, shut down (Oct. 2-9) to allow for "production revision" rehearsals. Unspecified new material and new cast members Rachel York and Rex Smith will be in by Oct. 10.
It is not yet clear if Oct. 10 begins a preview period leading to a new official opening (that might perhaps coincide with the one-year anniversary of the previous Pimpernel opening).
New to the project are director Robert Longbottom (Side Show ) , who helped reshape and add or subtract scenes and songs with lyricist book writer Nan Knighton and composer Frank Wildhorn. Most conspicuous, however, are new stars Smith and York, added as villain Chauvelin and love interest Marguerite, respectively. They replace Terrence Mann and Christine Andreas.
Douglas Sills, the Tony-nominated actor who originated the title role (and reaped terrific reviews singing the swaggering "Into the Fire"), continues in the revised version. For ticket information, call (212) 307-4100.
There is still no word as to the textual or musical changes new director Longbottom has made to the production, but sources say 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.
In September, the cast of Pimpernel rehearsed the new version of the musical during the day while performing the old one at night.
Radio City Entertainment and Ted Forstmann -- who bought the musical from its original producers July 23 -- brought in Longbottom 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 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.