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 Nan Knighton 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.
Sills returns to the role that made him a star Feb. 20 at the Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven. The run there continues to March 4. Sills is with the show only for 17 weeks.
The Broadway musical was trimmed down, scenically and in cast size, in summer 1999 after closing at the Minskoff Theatre. A tour of the scaled back version went on a brief summer jaunt before playing the Neil Simon Theatre between Sept. 10, 1999, and Jan. 2, 2000. In the current trimmed version of the show, 29 performers play what used to need 41. 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 tweaked ending truly makes this version "4.0." Sills, who was nommed for a Best Actor Tony Award in 1998, is expected to sing eight shows a week on tour.
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.
A hit with audiences, but ultimately not critics, Pimpernel, with its lusty romance-novel touches, is expected to be popular on the road.
Bookings will take Sills 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.
For information about the Shubert New Haven engagement, call (203) 562 5666.