Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review - The Scarlet Pimpernel (musical)

It's High School Musical Theatre season and so Lynette and I took advantage of the opportunity to go see The Scarlet Pimpernel at Viewmont High School. We've enjoyed the story (and the movie) for years. When it was turned into a musical in the 90s, I picked up the soundtracks and we've really enjoyed listening to it. There are some great songs in there. Last year we went to see it performed at Hale Centre Theatre and absolutely loved it. So when we heard that Viewmont was putting it on this spring, we decided we must see it again.

Viewmont always does a great job with their musicals. Their choir teacher has a great overarching vision for what she wants to accomplish and she works hard to ensure that vision comes out to meet everyone's expectations.

As we walked into the front of the school, we were greated by a cool display with antique desks, maps, documents, a miniature guillotine and more. Inside the front hall was a larger than life marquee of sorts...a huge sculpted (?) pimpernel below the play's title. The lobby looked great.

We settled into our seats and began reading the playbill to discover that this is the final year for Ms Maguire, the choir director. She certainly made sure she ended her musical career on a high note.

Pimpernel is a fabulously fun musical with plenty of great male and female roles as well as ambitious design needs for costumes and sets. The music is stirring and the acting ranges from comic to somber to romantic to action-filled.

I was very impressed with the scale and nature of the sets and the costumes as the first few scenes were revealed. The quality of the work was exquisite and vibrantly engaging to the eye.

The actors were all well cast. The leads had great voices and great stage presence and all appeared very comfortable on stage and working with each other. The secondary roles were also good as were the members of the ensemble/additional characters.
The choreography and general stage direction was well done and kept the pace and the fun of the show running smooth throughout. There were a lot of very subtle jokes and bits of humor that required good coordination between the cast and these were all well done.

The music presented was great and very well performed. I was a little bummed to see that there was (what appeared to be) professionally hired players rather than solely using the talent the school had to offer. I'm not entirely sure of the situation and I could be misreading what is presented in the playbill but for a high school production, it seems wrong to outsource some of the talent rather than letting the students have every opportunity to contribute. Perhaps all of the players were students but just categorized differently?

My only complaint with the entire presentation is a very minimal complaint and one which I'm sure was a conscious decision on the part of the production team...that of the 'nature' of the voices. Being set during the French Revolution and with French and English characters, most of the cast were attempting to affect some kind of accent or other. The French characters each spoke with distinctive French sounds and the English characters all spoke with rounder sounds. My problem wasn't with the accents per se, but with the way the voices changed as a seemed that as part of speaking with these accents, the characters also tried to speak deeper, bolder, more pronounced...which sounded slightly awkward to me.
Their accents were great, but the way their voices maneuvered while speaking made the conversation feel unnatural. What was interesting was that in some cases they tried to carry this accent over into their singing...and in some cases, the affected voice disappeared during a song to enable me to hear what their natural speaking voice was like. Honestly, I would have prefered the more natural sounding voice as it would have made the conversations feel more natural. It wasn't awful and generally it wasn't too distracting. There were a couple of songs where the accent/voice changed partway through, but overall it was alright.

In general, this is a fabulous play and well worth seeing if you get the chance. The story is tons of fun and the transition to musical stage is great.

In specific, Viewmont did a wonderful job with this production. They have so much talent and passion at that school both from the students and the faculty...not to mention the contributions that I'm sure happened from parents and other members of the community.

The Scarlet Pimpernel Original Broadway Cast RecordingWhile this production has now ended, I can definitely recommend that you go see Pimpernel if you have the chance...and if you happen to have the chance to see Viewmont put on a musical, it's an experience well worth seeking out.

4.5 out of 5 stars

NOTE: Photos above are from the VHS Pimpernel Facebook page. I claim no personal ownership.

Today's Quote from Quoting Quotes:



Stephanie said...

Those costumes are fantastic! Some professional productions I've seen haven't had such amazing costumes. That's really great that a high school could put on a performance like that!

DEZMOND said...

he he a film on this is also in production, Okie :) You have a post on it somewhere at my site. It will be a very expensive European production, and they already have a great lead actor.

Okie said...

@Stephanie - Yeah, it was crazy amazing work especially considering that it's a high school production

@Dez - I remember reading about the new Pimpernel movie. I've always had a soft spot for the 1982's not super flashy or anything (it's more akin to a bbc period piece from the 80s), but I really love that film and I'm looking forward to seeing how the update comes about.