If the new producers of the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel have their way, the troubled musical will again be up for Tony honors in 1999.
As reported in the New York Post on Sept. 23, producers Radio City Entertainment and Ted Forstmann have begun discussions with the Tony administration committee. They argue that Pimpernel -- which debuted in fall 1997 but will reopen Oct. 13 in a reconfigured version -- is being so altered as to be a completely different musical.
In August, Radio City brought in Robert Longbottom (Side Show) to restage the tuner. When that happens, new stars Rachel York and Rex Smith will replace Christine Andreas and Terrence Mann (Douglas Sills is staying). The cast has been rehearsing the new version during the day, while performing the old one at night. No details on the textual changes have been released.
Tony spokesman Kevin Rehac told the Post, "A formal request has to be made and the requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. A final decision may not be made until the new year." Pimpernel received three 1998 Tony nominations, including best musical, but did not win any of the awards.
Actress York most recently starred on Broadway opposite Julie Andrews in the musical Victor/Victoria. She also starred with Andrews in the Manhattan Theatre Club's Sondheim revue, Putting It Together. Rex Smith is perhaps best known in stage circles for his performance as Frederic in the 1981 New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Pirates of Penzance. The Scarlet Pimpernel will shut down for a few days during the first week of October. "We plan to have the new version on stage the week of the 12th of October," said Tim Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Radio City Entertainment.
This past summer, the producers bought Pimpernel from its original producers in an unorthodox effort to shore up the ailing musical's fortunes. Hawkins confirmed to Playbill On-Line (Aug. 13) that Longbottom would collaborate with Pimpernel composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Nan Knighton on a new version of the show.
Radio City has not elaborated on the nature of the alterations, but Christine Andreas told PBOL the planned revisions were ones she had sought for some time. "These new guys are going to make changes we wished happened a year ago," she said, including plot restructuring meant to better support the musical's major characters. "My character is rather underwritten," remarked Andreas. "It's really because of that unbalance that I'm ready to go."
Hawkins told PBOL on Aug. 13 that the musical's original director, Peter Hunt, would not take an active role in the reconception, although his ideas on the matter have been solicited. "Peter is in California and focusing on TV projects," he said. "He's a part of the process, but not on a day-to-day basis."
Asked if Nan Knighton had been doing rewrites, Hawking replied, "Nan's doing a lot of work with [Longbottom] reshaping elements of the show. Frank Wildhorn is working on it, too." Hawkins declined to comment on any specific details concerning Pimpernel's makeover, or whether the new production would be less expensive to run.