KAYSVILLE — The Scarlet Pimpernel emphasizes the power of a few men’s ingenuity to overcome remarkable odds. Kaysville City’s recent production definitely embodied this. It’s an awe inspiring task to take a story that transfers across the geography and various classes of England and France during the epic backdrop of the French Revolution. The Kaysville production had some amazing accomplushments in choreography, costuming, music direction, and technical direction that emphasize the Pimpernel’s ingenuity and understated brilliance, while some of the more intimate moments fell to Madame Guillotine’s infamous ability to cut short a life of power.
The Scarlet Pimpernel—with book and lyrics by Nan Knighton and music by Frank Wildhorn—focuses on one English aristocrat, Percy Blakeney, who marries a French actress, Marguerite St. Just, during the height of the French Revolution. Disturbed by the events taking place and the possible involvement of his newly wedded wife in the capture and execution of the French aristocracy, Percy sets out with his friends to stop as many executions as he can. He must then overcome the impervious Chauvelin, a former lover of Marguerite’s, who is fully committed to the revolution’s Reign of Terror.
Kaysville’s production constantly delivered on the epic scale of this story with grand and daring moments. Technical director/lighting designer/stage manager Chad Call’s expert execution helped ensure the epic nature always enveloped the auditorium in Davis High School. High points include the massive mast and sails coming out of the ground during “Into the Fire.” Likewise, the fanatical fervor introducing “Madame Guillotine” was deftly executed matched by the towering cage and guillotine center stage and a perfectly timed ligh tshow bringing the manic event to heady end.
The mob of a chorus was wonderfully controlled by music director Jordan LeBaron and choreographers Lauri Storey and Kristen Callor. The music produced by the chorus, usually without microphones, had the necessary projection and harmony, even in more purposely discordant moments in “Mme Guillotine.” Likewise, the chorus displayed their wonderful energy through knowing their choreography and helping understand and create powerful images. “Storybook” had the simple beauty of the carousel made of girls in flowing dresses and a maypole compared to the stark images of a mob clawing at the imprisoned aristocracy in “Mme Guillotine.”
The costume design elevated these great stage pictures to magnificent levels. The design by Haley Wilkinson, Kathi Allen, Kiana Miller, Christine Deppe, and Callor varied from ballgowns, to tavern wench costumes, to the period pantaloons and chemise, to a rainbow of “frou-frou.” Rapturous applause at the climax of the “Creation of Man” adequately praised these artists as the fops donned their ostentatious hats and strutted like peacocks in their splendor.
Director Kristin Callor brought the ingenuity of all these pieces together for a generally enjoyable evening. However, many of the more intimate scenes lacked the sophistication displayed throughout the rest of the play. Songs like “Where’s the Girl” and “Creation of Man” relied on too many simple circles and lines. These gave a basic sense of the story, but the director could have had the actors create clearer and deeper meanings in the lyrics. A great deal of the dialogue also often felt correct in tone, but lacking in connection to the double entendres or underlying secrets the characters were covering. Because I felt this consistently throughout the show, I believe it is more a matter of direction than actors’ choices. The early confrontations with Marguerite, Percy, and Chauvelin, where they all purposely hide something each other, showed sufficient direction to get the story across at balanced pace, complete with adequate humor, but lacked the final believable touches. Callor did introduce unique elements, like the carriage escape being projected as a prerecorded scene onto the scrim. These new ideas and the overall direction made The Scarlet Pimpernel high-quality community production and an enjoyable, entertaining evening.
Much the quality came from the wonderful execution of Wildhorn’s tremendous score. This was led by the show’s own Scarlet Pimpernel, Jayson LeBaron, who has a clear and sonorous voice that did well covering the character’s range of songs. “She Was There” highlights Jayson LeBaron’s connection to the depth of that moment and let his voice release his emotions of ecstasy as he realizes his abiding love for Marguerite. Percy had a fun foppish accent that entertained the crowd, yet I felt he never quite grasped the cadence required in Percy’s endless interjections of “What!” and “La.” The Pimpernel’s love of disguise was brought out in a delightfully brusque Grappin—the Belgian spy created to remain close to Chauvelin and Robespierre. Jayson LeBaron’s moments switching between these two extremes showed a great potential of his character acting.
Natalie Peterson as Marguerite often grasped the moments as being “greatest actress in Europe” that Chauvelin admired. As Peterson opened the show with “Storybook” her voice and beauty enchanted the house, particularly during her French verse. Peterson started out as a simply enchanting voice, but gradually built a captivating character as the night progressed. Songs like “I’ll Forget You” and the “Storybook (Reprise)” were deep feeling ballads of Marguerite’s strength and resolve.
Rounding out this trio of power voices, Isaac Wilkinson gave Chauvelin a menacing and powerful performance. Wilkinson’s booming bass voice encompassed all of the power and control that Chauvelin desired. While generally stoic and in control, Chauvelin sometimes lost his hold by Percy’s gallivanting. The depth of Chauvelin’s passion was most evident in Wilkinson’s “Where’s the Girl (Reprise)” when all of the feelings for Marguerite are finally mixed with a reverberating need for revenge against the Scarlet Pimpernel.
As the final tricks were played out and last notes sounded, the audience erupted into applause. While a few small moments would have been better cut short by the guillotine, the overall feeling of the night was that the illustrious Scarlet Pimpernel had triumphed once again.