Review of The Scarlet Pimpernel for Words & Music by Peter J Reed
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Presented by: The Barnstormers
Director: Paul Longhurst
Director: Colin Warnock
Choreography: Fran Reynolds
Venue: The Barn Theatre,
Dates: 25th - 30th June 2007
Reviewed by: Peter J Reed (Friday
29th June 2007)
an era when Musical theatre is being diluted with pop groups cashing in on the
'lets make a show from my greatest hits' theme it's glorious to find that there
is still room for turning a good story into a great musical. The 1998 musical
adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Nan Knighton & Frank Widhorn bears witness
to that. And, continuing their quest to bring 'something different' to the stage,
this, the Barnstormers' latest production (billed as one of the most demanding
shows they have staged to date) fair blew the audience away!
the 16-piece orchestra upstage of the action was a gamble which paid off and full
marks to Colin Warnock for making sure we heard every note and word of an excellent
score. No less of a challenge was that made of the set and lighting which was
as elegant in detail as it was simple in design, requiring only suitable period
furniture and props against gloriously washed screens of colour. The pièce de
résistance here had to be the ominous spectre of the guillotine literally rising
from the floor amidst an explosion of smoke and light. One oversight was the moon
being the same colour as Sir Percy's follow-spot.
Lingfield commanded the stage in an excellent portrayal of Sir Percy, delivering
witty and poignant dialogue with expert timing. Of his several guises, only that
of Grappin would have been hard pressed to fool even the French. As his estranged
wife Margueritte St Just, Kristin Callaway gave a good account with some fine
singing, but occasionally lacked the real depth of an exasperated spouse, whilst
James Klech, as Chauvellin, almost demonic at times also showed great tenderness
especially in Where's the Girl.
worth a mention were the excellent swashbuckling caricatures of The League of
the Scarlet Pimpernel, terrific in Into the Fire, and a gutsy chorus of suitably
garbed citizens/ guests/prisoners (care with muddied faces). Their ensemble pieces
were a treat, with well choreographed routines. Just occasionally one thought
if only they had a bit more space.
the costumes and wigs throughout were excellent, although the excess of colour
in the masqued ball seemed slightly out of place.
Review of The Scarlet Pimpernel for the Surrey Mirror by Phillipa Rushby July
in Paris and London during 1794, the familiar tale of the secret English hero,
Sir Percy Blakeney and his merry band of supporters, has been wonderfully adapted
for musical stage by Nan Knighton (lyrics) and Frank Wildhorn (music).
is a demanding production for many reasons; most notably the vocal quality required
to deliver the numbers, the numerous sets and the costuming necessary to create
the opulence of the period.
have evidently enjoyed putting this production together - their enthusiasm was
obvious and infectious. Their powerful opening chorus number quickly gained the
audience's support with super choreography and a big visual impact.
Lingfield, playing Sir Percy Blakeney (the Pimpernel), was wonderfully adaptable,
combining foppishness with sincerity and sang with great clarity and emotion -
a very controlled performance of a complex role. Along with his henchmen, he was
certainly able "to convince the whole of England that we're nincompoops".
Callaway, as Marguerite St Just, (Percy's wife) was equally impressive with her
vocal quality and clearly showed the pain she felt due to her husband's neglect.
She sounded especially good in When I Look at You and the You Are My Home duet
with Percy was quite lovely.
were no weak links in this production - the attention to characterization was
excellent. James Klech as the evil Chauvelin particularly, held his poise throughout
and was the perfect villain with a great voice.
large cast coped extremely well with not having their musical director in front
of them - the band was located backstage and actors relied upon TV monitors for
multiple scene changes that could have been problematic had been well designed.
The slick changes were subtle with scenery flown in, minimal furnishings used
to keep the stage relatively clear for movement and excellent lighting to denote
areas. Excellent stage management.
opening of Act II deserved its applause. The costuming, complete with wigs and
accessories, was quite superb. Coordinating beautifully, and creating such a feeling
of splendour and opulence, summarised the high standards set by the design team
for every aspect of the production. I could quite happily have sat through every
night of the run and found new things to marvel at each time.
Paul Longhurst will no doubt be eager to see how his production will translate
onto the stage at The Minack Theatre, Cornwall at the end of August - best wishes
for another successful run.
selection of photographs at the Barn Theatre by Mick Mercer
selection of photographs at the Minack Theatre by Rachel Hosken
selection of photographs at the Minack Theatre by Company Members & Friends
by Will Stubbs
by Will Stubbs
by Will Stubbs