Pimpernel's Douglas Sills: Suddenly, a Star

Pimpernel's Douglas Sills: Suddenly, a Star >He sought it here, he sought it there, and when Douglas Sills finally connected with stardom, he was there -- on that other coast, where A.C.T. in San Francisco had opened up the right stage doors (the Taper, La Jolla, South Coast Rep). TV guest shots helped, but after 20 years of almost making it, he was starting to give up on acting.
Who is the  Scarlet Pimpernel?  Sills with love interest Christine Andreas and villian Terrence Mann
Who is the Scarlet Pimpernel? Sills with love interest Christine Andreas and villian Terrence Mann (Photo by Photos by Joan Marcus)

>He sought it here, he sought it there, and when Douglas Sills finally connected with stardom, he was there -- on that other coast, where A.C.T. in San Francisco had opened up the right stage doors (the Taper, La Jolla, South Coast Rep). TV guest shots helped, but after 20 years of almost making it, he was starting to give up on acting. If you wave a good role under the nose of a born-to-act type, however, he will rally -- and Sills rallied for The Scarlet Pimpernel. "I figured I hadn't a prayer for the lead," he reasoned. "I knew they would like what I could do with the hero, but when push came to shove, I knew they would pass because I had no marquee value. Well, God bless 'em, they didn't."

Landing the lead in a Broadway show had been Sills's dream since Barbara Whiting (a family friend and Margaret's kid sister) exposed him to A Chorus Line here at a young age. Prior to coming to town in Pimpernel, he had only been here to rehearse -- for national tours of The Secret Garden and Into the Woods.

"Now," he said, receiving a Theatre World Award for his Broadway bow, "I can't remember what my house in California looks like." His alternately foppish and dashing title turn also took him into competition for the Tony as well as the Drama Desk Award.

No fluke, he -- but for his next number, he'd like to give his full-lunged bravado a rest and do a nonmusical. His hand is up to play the Christ-like character in Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi -- "that, or an ax murderer in a small film. Actually, what I want to do is work with a great director."

-- By Harry Haun