Like the hero of the title, The Scarlet Pimpernel is a musical that reinvents itself, disappears, resurfaces and aims for triumph.
The third Broadway version of the Nan Knighton-Frank Wildhorn musical, first seen in New York in fall 1997, begins performances Sept. 10 at the Neil Simon Theatre after a summer tour that played Dallas, Houston and Atlanta.
Technically, the show is "resuming performances," not reopening, according to Pimpernel spokespeople. A larger-cast version of the musical adventure played the Minskoff between fall 1998 and spring 1999, and then closed to be scaled back, recast and rethought by director Robert Longbottom. This more intimate version at the Neil Simon is textually the same as the Pimpernel that played fall 1998 to spring 1999; no songs were cut or added. But the three leads are new: Ron Bohmer (the Pimpernel), Carolee Carmello (Marguerite) and Marc Kudisch (Chauvelin).
Since closing at the Minskoff May 30, the musical has been recast with a company of 29 (rather than the previous 41) and has a slightly altered scenic design and staging, but no major changes to the score. Director Robert Longbottom (Side Show) had already overseen a revamping of the musical elements in fall 1998, when the producers shut the show down and the collaborators (lyricist-librettist Knighton and composer Wildhorn) performed surgery. Insiders affectionately call this version "3.0" because the show had two prior openings on Broadway, in 1997 and 1998.
This time around, there will not be a preview period or an official opening night on Broadway, and this will not be the same company that tours in 2000, according to a spokesperson.
Bohmer (who plays the title character) is a onetime Broadway Enjolras in Les Miserables, Kudisch (who plays villainous Chauvelin) appeared in High Society and as Birdie in the Tommy Tune tour of Bye Bye Birdie and Carmello (who plays the torn French actress, Marguerite) is a 1999 Tony Award nominee for playing Lucille Frank in Parade.
The musical is based on the romantic adventure novel by Baroness Orczy, which told of the British nobleman who, with his friends, travels to Revolution-era France to save the innocent.
The new cast includes David Cromwell, Harvey Evans, Peter Flynn, Russell Garrett, Drew Geraci, Danny Gurwin, Cynthia Leigh Heim, James Hindman, Emily Hsu, Alicia Irving, Elizabeth Ward Land, Ken Land, David Masenheimer, Kirk McDonald, Robb McKindles, Katie Nutt, Elizabeth O'Neill, Jessica Phillips, Terry Richmond, Laura Schutter, Stephonne Smith, David St. Louis, James Van Treuren and Charles West.
Originally directed by Peter Hunt, the "musical adventure" opened at the Minskoff in fall 1997 to unenthusiastic reviews and ran a year.
Radio City Entertainment, which had bought the production during its 1997-98 run, invested dough in having Wildhorn and Knighton, along with new director-choreographer Longbottom, reimagine the piece.
The show was recast (keeping Tony Award-nominated Douglas Sills in the title role, adding Rachel York as the love interest Marguerite and Rex Smith as the villain, Chauvelin), remarketed and reopened at the Minskoff Oct. 10, 1998, earning better reviews from critics and audiences.
For Neil Simon Pimpernel tickets, call (212) 307-4100.