The Scarlet Pimpernel
|Book and lyrics:||Nan Knighton|
|Opened:||11/97 at the Minskoff Theater|
|Cast:||Christine Andreas, Terrence Mann, Douglas Sills, Elizabeth Ward, Sandy Rosenberg, Pamela Burrell, Ed Dixon and David Cromwell|
“Is he in heaven? Is he in hell? That damned elusive Pimpernel.” Adapting the purple-prosed novel by Baroness Orczy into a musical proves just as slippery as its protagonist. It's the post-French Revolution tale of an Englishman who fops about as a wastrel to cover for his underground heroics saving victims from the guillotine. In addition to moonlighting as a swashbuckling gallant, Percy, a.k.a. The Pimpernel, suspects that his amour may be a spy for French terrorists. However, all this intrigue about a double life musters little suspense. Newcomer Douglas Sills saves his own neck from the critical guillotine with a formidable performance in the lead (though he can't resist overindulging in limp-wristed wimpiness at times). The musical numbers sag into top-40, Whitney Houston-ish banality and are further weighed down by somnabulatory choreography. Christine Andreas as Percy's bride Marguerite turns in the most memorable musical performance — a bawdy French music-hall belter. Unfortunately, the overall production becomes as two-faced as its titular hero, unable to reconcile its good-humored campiness with its yawning history lesson. And forget about the bold derring-do the Pimpernel's famed for: this adaptation's all ruff and no tumble.