It was the little musical that just couldn’t. Seven months after the opening of his Jekyll & Hyde, Frank Wildhorn opens his second Broadway show The Scarlett Pimpernel on November 9, 1997. Both productions were mounted following successful concept albums that featured Wilhorn’s wife Linda Eder; and hopes were high for ‘Pimpernel‘, as ‘Jekyll‘ had gotten mostly unfavorable notices. The show is set in England and France during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. The story is a humorous precursor to today’s spy fiction and the superhero genres, where a hero hides under a mild-mannered alias. The first workshop featured Carolee Carmello as Margurite, and Chuck Wagner as Percy. The Broadway cast would feature Douglas Sills as Percy, Christine Andreas as Margurite, and Terrance Mann as Chauvelin, and opened at Minskoff Theater.
In June, shortly before the Tony Awards were announced (it was nominated for three), the show was slated to close. The show’s fans known as “The League” rallied for it to have another chance. With falling ticket sales, the show ushered in new producers and reopened with Sills and two new leads, Rex Smith and Rachel York and a vastly rearranged production in October 1998 (a year after the previous opening). The show closed at the Minskoff on May 30, 1999. It had a mini-tour of a scaled-down version in the summer of 1999 with three new leads. This revised version (called the 3.0 version) opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater on September 7, 1999, closing on January 2, 2000 for a grand total of 772 performances and 39 previews. That cast starred Ron Bohmer, Marc Kudisch and Carolee Carmello. Like Wildhorn’s two other big budget efforts of the 1990’s (Jekyll & Hyde and The Civil War), the musical closed having never turned a profit.
The first US National tour began on February 20, 2000, through April 1, 2001, directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom with Douglas Sills re-creating his role and with Amy Bodnar as Marguerite, and William Paul Michals as Chauvelin.Sills was replaced by Robert Patteri and finally, again, Ron Bohmer. The musical has had numerous regional US productions and has been produced across the world since then. The last production bowed this year in Seoul, Korea.
The show continues to have a cult following, and many consider ‘Pimpernel‘ to be one of Wildhorn’s best scores. His other ill-fated works include Dracula the Musical, Wonderland, and most recently Bonnie and Clyde.
Click below to watch scenes from the Broadway productions of The Scarlett Pimpernel:
The Scarlett Pimpernel Press Reels (1998).
The Scarlett Pimpernel on The Rosie O’Donnell Show with Sutton Foster in the Ensemble (1998).
The Scarlett Pimpernel on The Rosie O’Donnell Show (1999).
The Scarlett Pimpernel version 2.0 (1998).
The Scarlett Pimpernel National Tour (2000).