July 24, 2006

The Scarlet Pimpernel

This past Saturday evening, I went to take in Longview Community Theatre's production of The Scarlet Pimpenel with my wife, Barbour, and Rachel. Jared was not in attendance due to some pathetic and whiney excuse on his part, and Randy had gone home for the weekend.

Anyways, departing from their usual playhouse at the Longview Community Center, the Community Theatre troupe produced The Scarlet Pimpernel at the much larger T.G. Field Auditorium (the current home of the Longview Symphony Orchestra and Opera Longview) across the street.

Now, having never seen the 1997 Broadway musical that provided the basis for the Longview production, I went in relatively open-minded and with hopeful but realistic expectations... which I've found in my past dealings with the Longview Community Theatre to be a good thing.

At the outset, I must say that I really should be more careful in my expectations of foreign accents in Longview productions. It's been a problem in the past, and it continued to be a problem in Pimpernel. Most notably aggregious were Chauvelin's Monty Python French Accent, complete with farcical stereotypical gutteral laugh and the "Belgian's" confused accent that ended up sounding like a confused hick. Percy's French and British accents were fine when they were working, even while singing, but he had this incredibly annoying habit of "finding" and "losing" his accent mid-sentence and mid-song. On the whole, it is my personal belief that accents are a wondeful thing and add to the realism of a play when they work, but half-done, they do far more harm than good.

As far as the actual production went, each of the leads was very proficient, a good choice, and an excellent vocalist. My only complaint with the leads (accents notwithstanding) is that Marguerite is quite obviously an Alto, and the female lead role was quite obviously written for a Soprano. Don't get me wrong, she was probably the strongest actor in the show and the best singer... but someone probably should have done some rescoring in light of her not being a Soprano.

With regards to the rest of the troupe, it should be noted that LeTourneau's own Dr. Patrick Mayes plays one of the most convincing British fops that I've ever seen on stage. Some of the rest of the league of the Scarlet Pimpernel was a bit weak, but Dr. Mayes' over-the-top characterization helped carry the group. Choreography was definitely a problem, but I am told that some of the original cast quite on a very last-minute basis, which could explain many of the issues with group choreography and with the pit orchestra.

All in all, the show was excellent and a step or two above what I've come to expect from the Longview Community Theatre in terms of sheer acting. Many of the problems that arose are typical of the troupe and could be hoped to be fixed in the future, especially the issue with accents. Insofar as preparedness and choreographical issues are concerned, while it would appear that the selection that the Theatre has to choose from in terms of cast in the area is somewhat limited, perhaps a greater use of understudies and more recruiting at local colleges would ensure that play quality is less.... uneven. I would rate the play 3.5/5 stars on the whole and 4.5/5 stars on the Longview Community Theatre scale. It's a shame that it only ran one weekend, because I really would have liked to encourage more people to get out and support the local theatre (and thus give them some more money to work with... :-D )

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at July 24, 2006 12:18 PM | TrackBack