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The Scarlet Pimpernel

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Frank Wildhorn’s The Scarlet Pimpernel is the only one of his musicals I would willingly see again. The score is appropriately rousing and romantic, and the idea of the hero disguising himself in plain sight has delighted me since seeing the Leslie Howard film on television as a child.

But the production is big. With Paris streets teeming with people, sumptuous costumes, and some serious swordplay. how would a stripped-down version with a 9-member cast work in a Fringe venue?  Pretty well, I must admit.

It certainly helps that the three principals are cast with a trio of outstanding singing actors. British nobleman, Percy Blakeney (Stanton Morales) is in Paris to collect his fiancée, the glamorous French actress, Marguerite St. Just (Caitlin Gallogly). But disturbing elements surround them, as the Reign of Terror continues sending thousands to the guillotine.

Chauvelin (Marc Ginsburg) is a serious-minded revolutionary who has gained power and prestige as a spymaster for Robespierre’s government. He is also Marguerite’s former lover, and he has used her to gather information. Angered by her upcoming marriage and her desertion to England, he blackmails her for one last bit of intelligence.

Back in England, Percy realizes that Marguerite’s information betrayed a family to Chauvelin and led to their execution. He goes through with the marriage, but treats her with cold formality and suspicion.

Horrified by the carnage in Paris, Percy and his friends come up with a plan to rescue French aristocrats. They will cover their frequent trips to France by taking on the personalities of vapid fops, who are so enamored of their clothing that they must buy their lace in Paris. It will also dissuade anyone with suspicions from taking them seriously as agents.

When Margurite’s brother, Armand (Adam Trent), is captured by Chauvelin, both she and Percy travel separately to Paris to save him. Neither know each other’s secrets.

Morales has a strong and agile tenor which easily navigates the score. He has great fun overplaying the fop, but grounds himself believably as the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel. Gallogly proves a feisty Marguerite with a supple and expressive soprano. Ginsburg thunders mightily as the vengeful Chavelin, commanding the stage in each appearance. Trent is an appealingly ingenuous Armand, and the rest of the cast fill out the supporting roles, moving from French peasants to British nobility with admirable agility.

Director Katharine McDonough keeps the action moving and the plotline clear. This is an admirable feat considering the size of the playing area and the fact that there’s only one entrance/exit. The two-piece band is occasionally supplemented by cast member Cole Cuomo’s guitar.

The cast reduction makes the show feel rejuvenated. I’d love to see what this company could do in a slightly larger space, with a bit more budget for musicians and, perhaps, a few more costume pieces. Another thing the stripped down show production does is highlight the debt The Scarlet Pimpernel owes to The Desert Song. Of course, The Desert Song’s dashing Red Shadow, who masquerades as the ineffectual Pierre, similarly owes his inspiration to the novel version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Underground Theatre    June 10 – 23, 2017

 

 

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.