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 current tenant, the Public Theatre production of On the Town, recently announced it would close on Jan. 17 after a brief run.
Another vital question surrounding Pimpernel 's future concerns whether the Pimpernel himself, Douglas Sills, will continue with the show. Sills was the only major performer retained from the previous incarnation of the musical and his performance is considered very important to the success of the show. For weeks, rumors have had Sills possibly leaving in March. Sills' agent, Flo Rothacker, has declined to comment, saying nothing has been settled.
The Scarlet Pimpernel certainly had a better fall in 1998 than it did the year before. When the Frank Wildhorn 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.