​OREM — The SCERA made a beautiful comeback from the coronavirus shutdowns​ with The Scarlet Pimpernel. The production was nearly ready to go at the indoor theater back in March, but had to be postponed, and ended up moving to the outdoor SCERA Shell Amphitheater nearly about two months after its original opening night. It was beautifully staged and the grassy audience area felt comfortable and safe, with the chairs and blankets spread out to maintain social distancing. The temperatures were just right for a summer show, and (despite some blown transformers from Rocky Mountain Power that hindered starting on time and the smell of burning from a distant fire that seemed to affect the singer’s voices) it was a lovely evening.

Show closes June 20, 2020.

The story is based on Baroness Orczy‘s novel set during the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror, where citizens were fighting against all royalty and wealthy, tired of having been treated so unequally over the years. An Englishman, Sir Percy Blakeney (played by Scott Hendrickson) sees all this pain among his friends in France, and does his best to save and protect them while disguised as the Scarlet Pimpernel, while Chauvelin seeks to uncover him and his band of helpers. Frank Wildhorn‘s score and Nan Knighton‘s lyrics for The Scarlet Pimpernel is strongly reminiscent of the epic feel of Les Misérables, with powerful solo numbers for the main characters, and fantastic group numbers. Even the antagonist, Chauvelin (played by Josh Egbert), looked and sounded like Javert, as head of the militia, with his deep bass voice.

Costume design by Deborah Bowman. Photo by Rachael Gibson.

This musical was directed by Delayne Bluth Dayton, and the choreography by Lindsay Folkman. I loved how many different styles of dance Folkman used, and the “Ballet for Storybook” was especially beautiful to watch. The dancers were skilled and well-cast, performing double turns and aeriels. Dayton made it easy to find who was singing when the whole ensemble was onstage by having the singer come forward or separate from the whole group and face the audience. I also enjoyed the dance scene “They Seek” where one of the ensemble ladies tries to dance with Chauvelin, while he attempts to avoid her. The whole attitude of the cast was a great fit for this show’s pomp.

Hendrickson provided the necessary flare to truly bring Percy to life. He was flamboyant when “performing” as a superficial prig, and powerfully intense when being himself. I loved the way he pulled off the jokes, like when he teases Chauvelin about spooking him in his all black get-up and then skips away with an extra little hop. Hendrickson’s voice was strong and clear, and the final notes were lengthy but he got them, despite some vocal hiccups from the sooty air.

The smoke irritated my and my husband’s lungs while we were merely sitting in the audience, so it was impressive to hear the cast sing so well under those conditions. Egbert has a phenomenal vocal range; to hear him jump from the low bass notes to hit a high final note at the end of “Falcon in the Dive” was so startling that I looked around to see who else was singing and realized it was still him. Along with his grand vocals, Egbert was also a powerful actor, and pulled off the fight scenes expertly.

McKenna Thomas makes a marvelous Marguerite St. Just. Her French accent was melodious, and I enjoyed her inner struggle between wanting to keep her family safe and trying to do the right thing. She also sings like an angel, and received a well-deserved standing ovation during bows, along with Hendrickson and Egbert.

I was most impressed by the costumes by Deborah Bowman. The hoop skirts fit the dances perfectly, moving with the characters in beautiful form and fit the formal 1700s setting perfectly. I especially enjoyed Thomas’s dress for the opening scene at her theater; she had a gaudy bow in front with curtain-like flows of fabric draped out from her waist, covered in gold sparkles. I also loved Hendrickson’s outfits when he was in disguise as “himself,” and his pastel blue suit with all the frills was amazing. All of his friends were gussied up in like manner as well, making the song “The Creation of Man” a hilarious number. For “Into The Fire,” the characters were dressed to go undercover in France, and there were a few marvelous cloaks, including one on Hendrickson that looked so epic for that scene as the actors all stood facing the audience with the wind blowing their cloaks. I am glad that the SCERA brought this show outside just for that moment.

Finally, I am grateful to the SCERA for bravely opening The Scarlet Pimpernel during this time of uncertainty. Having the option to go to the theatre is a huge blessing right now, especially for those who may have suffered emotionally from the shut-down. The show was definitely worth keeping ready for two months until the restrictions on public gatherings were lifted. I hope this can be a well-attended production, as its opening night was. Because the show starts later than most (8 PM) and is outside, I recommend that audience members bring a blanket for warmth after the sun goes down and plenty of bug repellent. Also, The Scarlet Pimpernel runs nearly three hours, so be ready for wind or a change in the Utah weather—and you’ll enjoy your night out.

The Scarlet Pimpernel plays nightly (except Wednesdays and Sundays) at 8 PM at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre (699 S. State Street, Orem) through June 20. Tickets are $10-16. For more information, visit www.scera.org.

This review was supported by a generous grant from the Orem CARE program.