'The Scarlet Pimpernel' at Chase Collegiate School - My Review

The students shine in this production.

As I read in , The Highlander Theater Company presented The Scarlet Pimpernel, a modern musical set in historical times, this weekend at Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury. The director, Robert Cutrofello, takes "pride in mounting lesser known works and breathing life into plays and musicals rarely seen by commercial theater." He notes that this approach is essential to being considered an academic company and that this musical is "a rollicking adventure that brings history and farce together for entertainment that reawakens some of our history classes."

The large auditorium was half filled with numbered folding chairs near the elevated stage and the other end was set up like a French cafe. French treats and personalized soda bottles were for sale by some dedicated parents. A show poster autographed by cast members was raffled off. The walls were hung with large felt banners marking the shows that the company has produced. Recent productions included Frankenstein, The Laramie Project, West Side Story and Beauty and the Beast.

Even after reading the synopsis in the program, I found the plot a little bit hard to follow and afterwards I discovered that I had missed a few points. I had heard that some theatergoers love this show, while others not so much. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed this production put on by the large group of dedicated teens (which included lots of young men) and the adults who worked with them.

The instrumental ensemble, under the direction of Michael Ferrari, included two cellos and sat at audience level in front of the stage. I was afraid that they would overpower the performers who were not miked as was the case during the opening number; however, it got better as the show progressed. The uncredited costumes and wigs were period appropriate and plentiful; the female lead actress changed her beautiful costumes five times. The scenery and props were well-research and included a guillotine, fencing swords and a severed head (because it is the French Revolution, after all.)

The male lead "Percy/Grappin" was played to perfection by the personable Zach Leff who was a 2011 Halo Award winner for Best Couple in a Musical for his portrayal of "the Beast." He was both charming and funny as the title character. Theron Johnson was strong in the lead role of military man Citizen Chauvelin. The rest of the young men did an admirable job of acting and dancing, with James Lazor as the Irish "Ozzy" being my favorite.

As "Marguerite," Brianna Smail had the powerhouse voice necessary for the role. She sang beautifully in French and was a fine actress as well. Her assistant "Marie" was played by the lovely Monica Leszczynski. All the supporting cast did a fine job with their roles; Christian Lewis as "Robespierre" and Tom Aviles as Marguerite's brother "Armand" were both especially good.

The curtain to this final performance was delayed because the pre-show "circle" with the director was very emotional.Many of the cast/crew/musicians are graduating seniors and their bios were impressive. Some have appeared at the Warner and Thomaston Opera House. Kudos to everyone involved in this theatre company production.

On a sad note, as I was driving home on Route 8 from this wonderful production, I had to pass near the awful wreckage of that evening. My prayers are with the victims and their families.

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