"The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Present Company.
When musical director Morris Fisher invited me to pop along to see "The Scarlet Pimpernel", I readily agreed as I'd not seen this musical before and i wanted to tick it off my list. I got a copy of the soundtrack, which I thought was OK and this evening looked forward to seeing what it was all about.
The show is set in England and France during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. Sir Percy Blakeney has met his young French fiancee Marguerite St just and he has taken her back to good old Blighty to wed her. On their wedding day he discovers that she is passing on information to the French via her ex, Chavelin, which is resulting in the beheading of innocent people and their families.
Percy doesn't like this and decides that a hero is needed and transforms himself in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Zut Alors et Sacre bleu! Along with his friends they scupper many executions while back at home they appear as a group of very British fops and dandies.
It's when Marguerite's brother Armand St Just, who is also one of The Pimpernel's men, is captured by Chauvelin that he enlists Marguerite by blackmail to entice The Scarlet Pimpernel out of hiding.
David Partridge plays the triple part of Percy, Grappin (Chauvelin's enlisted man who he thinks is on his side to help catch The Scarlet Pimpernel) and of course the hero of the story. Wonderfully camp as Percy and wonderfully storybook hero as The Pimpernel. And what a wonderful voice this man has. he, and the cast really brought the soundtrack to life for me and made what was a good soundtrack a brilliant soundtrack. His duet with Marguerite of "When I Look At You" was sheer magic, tingles up and down the spine stuff
Marguerite was played by Rachael Louisa Bray, and again another beautiful clear voice with such emotion which matched her acting.
Craig Arme played the baddie of the musical, Chauvelin, but received a huge round of applause at the curtain call. He completed the trio of excellent voices in this musical. You could just imagine Craig and David in "Les Miserables" with voices that they have, blending so smoothly as they did. These three vocal styles made this musical the wonderful experience it was.
Well these three and the big ensemble and support cast. With having such a large cast who could all sing well, they made the ensemble pieces sound like a big old Hollywood musical, so rich sounding they were. Such a large cast that I won't name them all but they were all marvellous, especially Percy's fops and dandies, supplying many comical highlights.
The music was excellent, like a mash up of Gilbert & Sullivan, Les Miserables and Phantom Of the Opera. the orchestra, conducted and musical directed by Morris Fisher were like a rich red wine; full bodied fulfilling and fruity and I loved the sound they produced.
The costumes were gorgeous and extravagant, i imagine a delight for wardrobe mistress Marion Fisher to be involved with. Well it was a delight to behold the colour and the glamour and decadence of the clothes, both male and female costumes. i imagine as well a possible nightmare for the dressers involved i getting the actors dressed in them!
The choreography was suitable to the style of dancing for the period and added that certain class to the proceedings. A job well executed by Jean Gemmell, who also was Artistic Director.
Decadent sets transported you back to the French Revolution and some very good lighting and sound effects. lighting designed by David Marsden and sound engineered by Simon Birchall. My only niggle with the sound was with the mics which weren't timed quite as accurately as maybe they could have been in Act One as some of the actors words were slightly lost. By Act Two, this has been sorted out, so i was a very happy bunny!
I've touched on the soundtrack earlier but what the recorded soundtrack didn't deliver to me was the beauty of hearing such wonderful songs, sung live, and I just know that you'll go away with some new musical favourites from this show; as well as maybe adding "The Scarlet Pimpernel" to your list of favourite musicals. it's definitely one that I will go and see again, especially if it's performed as well as it was on Thursday night at Derby Theatre.
"The Scarlet Pimpernel" is on at Derby Theatre until Saturday 26 November 2016 and performed by Present Company and they were formidable mes amis!