The French post-revolutionary reign of terror provided the setting for the Festival Players’ first show of 2008, in the form of Frank Wildhorn’s adaptation of Baroness Orczy’s novel The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Director Suzanne Emerson
Musical Director Brian Thomas
Choreographer Antonia Grantham
Lighting Design David McRobb
Costume Design Liz Milway
My first introduction to this recently released musical, and from the high standards presented by the Festival Players in this production, I left the theatre clamouring for more. Suzanne Emerson’s production was slick and perfectly timed with a firm eye for detail. Good use was made of the stage, and the ensemble work in both singing and movement was outstanding. The drama, particularly centred on the guillotine, was well developed. (It is not every male principal’s privilege to fondle his own decapitated head!!). As always, the scene changes – and there were 12 in act 1 and 10 in act 2 – were in the very capable hands of the Penguin Club. Cambridge is very fortunate to have such an excellent amateur group specialising in backstage help and expertise, including lighting, sound and construction.
As for the principals, this show, above all others, demanded a very high standard in both singing and acting from the three main leads, I could not fault Gavin Jarvis as Sir Percy Blakeney in his portrayal of the three characters of Pimpernel, the foppish Sir Percy and the misshapen adviser to Chauvelin, nor could I fault his singing in no less than ten numbers. As Marguerite St Just, Davinia Denham gave us a distinguished performance as the wife blackmailed by her former lover who is asked to destroy her husband. Her numbers were again first class. As for the villain of the piece, Matt Gregory (Chauvelin) exuded all the nastiness required in the role, and again was in fine voice. Percy’s Bounders were a delight to watch as they cavorted around the stage, again in good voice, and I must mention their ballet which got well deserved applause. I liked Alan Hay (Prince of Wales), a small part played with superb indifference. The orchestra conducted by Brian Thomas was of the usual high standard. The costumers were excellent. Did I enjoy the show – you Bet!!