RIVERTON — In my opinion, attending a youth production is a fun experience as you get to be witness to talent in the making. I approach such a production critically from afar—using perspective to look for potential as much as for actual performance. Riverton Art’s Council’s The Scarlet Pimpernel was a youth production that succeeded on both counts—potential and performance.
First, I commend director Kim Ostler and associate director Lani King for tackling this show with teenagers as the majority of the actors. With book and lyrics by Nan Knighton, music by Frank Wildhorn and orchestrations by Kim Scharnberg, The Scarlet Pimpernel is a musical that is rather long because of its somewhat complicated plot. The musical is based on the novel of the same name by Baroness Orczy about Percy Blakeney and his undercover heroics as the “Scarlet Pimpernel” during the aftermath of the French Revolution. The Scarlet Pimpernel is also a love story between Percy and his wife, Marguerite St. Just, whom he suspects of being a French spy. A handful of subplots add to the bulk, making this a two- to three-hour show.
Despite its length, however, the pacing of this particular production kept it from dragging. Scenes flowed quickly from one to the next and lines were delivered succinctly. Obviously this cast was well-rehearsed as I didn’t notice any awkward pauses for lines or breaks in the general flow of the show. One scene in particular in which pacing could have been a problem, but thankfully wasn’t, was the wedding scene. Lines are constant between wedding guests and the bride and groom—Percy (Shawn Twede) and Marguerite (Kaitlyn King)—but each line came at the appropriate time without lagging.
As far as performances, the three main leads of the show—protagonist Percy (Shawn Twede), female lead Marguerite (Kaitlyn King), and antagonist Chauvelin (Kyle A. Lawrence)—were all strong. Twede’s Percy shined brightest in comedic moments, such as in the ever-fun, “The Creation of Man.” Twede’s singing voice was also strong and reminiscent of the smooth, clean tone of Josh Groban, particularly during the heartfelt “She Was There.” Kaitlyn King did a great job of portraying the many levels of acting required for Marguerite, particularly in scenes between Marguerite and Chauvelin. She has a singing voice that is already warm with maturity that will only continue to deepen with age and experience. “When I Look at You” was a particularly moving and beautiful performance by King in which her singing and her acting worked well together.
Chauvelin is one of the most interesting characters in The Scarlet Pimpernel, in my opinion, as he is anything but a simple “villain.” Of all the characters, his undergoes the most changes as the show progresses, and he battles with the love and passion of his heart against his violent, deep-rooted convictions of morality. Kyle A. Lawrence played a superb Chauvelin, giving a well-rounded performance. His acting was convincing and his many solos were all well-sung, particularly the goosebump-inspiring ending notes of “Falcon in the Dive.”
The set, designed by Mark Halvorsen, Eddie Cunningham, Terry Atkinson, and Todd Wartman, was colorful and worked well with the many changes in scene and location. Most notable artistically were the costumes—which were varied in texture, color, and style, depending on the needs of the scene. The men’s pastel costumes for the ball were beautifully constructed and created a hilarious dichotomy between the manliness of men and the frilliness of their clothes, right down to their high heels. Costume designers Kim Ostler, Jill Vandongen, Lani King, Kay Salisbury, and Cami Twede deserve applause.
Musical director Angela Healy excellently guiding the youth performers’ voices, particularly during group numbers such as the thrilling “Madame Guillotine.” A few of the songs, however, could have used more of a sustained last note, as the singing often cut off so fast that the audience was left listening to two or three measures of track music. Hopefully the singers can better sustain their end notes in future performances. Choreographer Vicki Wartman added nice variety to musical numbers with the dancing in the fore- and background. Fighting scenes were also well-choreographed, though I wished the action were put more in the front during “Into the Fire,” during which sword play seemed overshadowed by the fact that it was often hidden behind actors standing still.
Overall, this was an enjoyable show made all the more so by the fact that the young performers onstage, who are already good, have so much potential to become even better. Though this production wasn’t perfect, the majority of its so-called “flaws” are performance skills that I am confident that the performers will hone with time and experience.
[utab_info_box]The Riverton Arts Council production of The Scarlet Pimpernel plays at the Sandra N. Lloyd Performing Arts Center (12880 S. Redwood Road, Riverton) Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday through March 25 at 7 PM with Saturday matinees at 2 PM. Tickets are $8-10. For more information, visit www.rivertonartscouncil.org.[/box]