The Barn Theatre,
25 Bluehouse Lane, Oxted, Surrey
RH8 0AA.

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The Scarlet Pimpernel

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A Review of The Scarlet Pimpernel for Words & Music by Peter J Reed

Presented by: The Barnstormers
Director: Paul Longhurst
Musical Director: Colin Warnock
Choreography: Fran Reynolds
Venue: The Barn Theatre, Oxted, Surrey
Dates: 25th - 30th June 2007
Reviewed by: Peter J Reed (Friday 29th June 2007)

In 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!

Setting 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.

Andy 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.

Well 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.

Generally the costumes and wigs throughout were excellent, although the excess of colour in the masqued ball seemed slightly out of place.

A Review of The Scarlet Pimpernel for the Surrey Mirror by Phillipa Rushby July 24 2007

SET 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).

This 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.

Barnstormers 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.

Andy 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".

Kristen 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.

There 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.

The 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 their cues.

The 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.

The 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.

Director, 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.

A selection of photographs at the Barn Theatre by Mick Mercer

A selection of photographs at the Minack Theatre by Rachel Hosken

A selection of photographs at the Minack Theatre by Company Members & Friends

Photo by Will Stubbs

Photo by Will Stubbs

Photo by Will Stubbs