Ah, sink me! "They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere...Is he in heaven? Or is he in (shh!) hell? That damned, elusive, Pimpernel..."
This evening I had the wonderful opportunity to be reintroduced to one of my favorite stories--The Scarlet Pimpernel. A favorite local theater, the Glendale Centre Theatre, has an ongoing production running through April. It was so good!
I first became acquainted with the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel back in college, when, in my junior year, a roommate rented it from the local video store. I fell in love with the story and that particular film version immediately. Shortly after, it was on TV and I taped it, later showed it to my family, who also loved it. It quickly became a family favorite and still is.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is based on a book by Baroness Orczy, and it tells of a seemingly foppish British Lord named Sir Percival Blakeney. In public he plays the fool, but he is also, secretly, the heroic Scarlet Pimpernel who, with his small band of trusted friends, sneak back and forth to France during the revolution, rescuing imprisoned aristocrats and saving them from "Madam Guillotine." Percy and his friends use everything at their disposal: tricks, make-up, disguises, and a lot of humor.
When Percy falls in love with the French actress, Margarite St. Just, his life seems as charmed as ever. However, at his wedding, he learns that Margarite may be responsible for the deaths of an entire aristocrat family. What he doesn't know, is that the Chief Agent of National Security--Paul Chauvlin--has named her as informer, and also plans to use her again to discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
The whole story is full of wit, intrigue, and the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between Sir Percy and Chauvlin. The very best film version, in my opinion, is the one with Anthony Andrews as Percy, Jane Seymour as Margarite, and Ian McKellan as Chauvlin. I could watch that movie again and again, and I have!
The musical is also very good. I had the good fortune to see it at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles 2 times around 10 years ago. Douglas Sills was wonderful as Percy. And tonight's less extravagant show at the GCT was also excellent. Tonight, though, the scene-stealer was definitely Kelby Thwaits, who played Chauvlin. Oh my gosh--that guy has the most amazing voice, and quite a presence too. I've seen him in other productions there and he is always excellent, but I think he's outdone himself there.
And that is my "ode" to the Scarlet Pimpernel. Love it! And the book is great too.
Here are some great videos I found, thanks to You Tube:
A great song, Into the Fire, from the National cast. Douglas Sills is so awesome!
A great scene from the movie, that shows when Percy and Margarite meet. It doesn't give away "too much" of the story--which I would recommend to anyone.