The rocky French seacoast set seen in the fall 1999 Broadway version of the romantic adventure has been scrapped due to its size and has been replaced, in a tidy rewrite, by the show's Act One, Scene One setting in a theatre. A guillotine has been set up on stage and enemies Chauvelin (played by William Paul Michals) and Sir Percy (Sills) have their final encounter among the curtains and gaslight.
Beyond that, the score is unchanged since the Broadway musical was trimmed down in summer 1999 after closing at the Minskoff Theatre. A tour of the scaled-back version went on a brief tour before playing the Neil Simon Theatre between Sept. 10, 1999, and Jan. 2, 2000. Prior to that, the show debuted on Broadway in fall 1997 and was retooled in fall 1998 with a new cast and a tweaked score.
The different versions have affectionately been called "1.0," "2.0" and 3.0." It was thought the tour would be a copy of the fall 3.0 show, but now the upcoming run with Best Actor (Musical) Tony Award nominee Sills can truly be called "4.0." Sills is expected to sing eight shows a week.
The romantic musical adventure by composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist librettist Nan Knighton (drawn from the story by Baroness Orczy) played a total of 772 performances (and 39 previews) during its two-year run in various forms: The original 1997 Peter Hunt-directed version, the 1998 revamped Robert Longbottom version and the 1999 small-cast Longbottom remount. Longbottom directs and choreographs the tour, as well. Amy Bodnar, fresh from the tour of Martin Guerre, plays Percy's wife, the apparently duplicitous Marguerite.
Radio City Entertainment and Ted Forstmann are the show's producers.
In the current trimmed version of the show, 29 performers play what used to need 41.
A hit with audiences, but ultimately not critics, Pimpernel, with its lusty romance-novel touches, is expected to be popular on the road.
Sills will appear on tour for 17 weeks only, beginning Feb. 20 at New Haven's Shubert Theatre. Bookings will take him to St. Paul, Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles. Regional credits in southern California earned him a loyal audience in the Los Angeles-San Diego area. He earned a degree from San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre.
Tour dates are booked into 2001.