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From Kimberly in California:
Since 9th grade I have read Scarlet Pimpernel over 50 times. Basically I know it by heart. There are very few stories that I hold so dear, therefore I did not think it was possible that someone could take such liberty with the basic plot and and leave me anything but outraged! Yet at my first viewing at the Sacramento Music Circus last week, I was never so entertained and delighted by a musical. I laughed, admired, and of course, fell in love with Percy (Brad Little). Much to my shock I fell almost equally in love with Chauvelin (William Michals). I approved heartily of uplifting Chauvelin from the frighteningly obsessed bad guy of the book to a dedicated revolutionist appalled at the change in his former lover/fellow revolutionist. I was delighted with the many other changes which allowed the story to unfold before the audience--i.e. your version of the wedding night made so much more sense than the Baroness's rather vague allusions to the past. And of course, like everyone else in the sold out Music Circus Tent (that is no longer a tent), I was immensely entertained by the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel Dandies.

However, there is one scene from the book that I missed and to which I think you did not do justice. I so love Marguerite's discovery that the hero that she fantasized about and possibly betrayed to Chauvelin is the husband she has disdained. Her racing off to France in the book to try to save, warn, and confess to Percy was so much more romantic and suspenseful than racing off to save Armand. Especially since the Scarlet Pimpernel had already assured her that he would save her brother.

Wouldn't it be a simple addition, to have her chase down Chauvelin soon after his encounter with Percy on the footbridge. She quizzes him as to whether the Scarlet Pimpernel showed up and he rages about the appearance of her fool husband. Couldn't the truth start dawning then (for both of them), followed perhaps by a servant bearing a note to Marguerite from Percy that he was leaving for a trip to his tailor in Paris. The scene should then end with a beautiful song by Marguerite in which she rages about her idiocy, her betrayal, and forms her resolve to save her husband and beg his forgiveness. All else would then proceed pretty much as already played.

Forgive me if I am being presumptuous. I am in awe at the wonderful job you did at turning the book into such a stunningly enjoyable musical. I have seen a long list of musicals this year including "Chicago" and "Les Mis" in London. Your Scarlet Pimpernel has rocketed to the top as my most enjoyable theater experience. I can scarcely wait to take my sisters, sons and friends. Clearly everyone else in the Music Circus audience felt the same, because even matinee tickets were impossible to get that week.

With the greatest admiration,

Thursday, 21 April 2005

Dear Kimberly,

I loved your letter. It always makes me so happy to hear that people have enjoyed the show and I, for my part, enjoy tossing around ideas about how things could have been done differently or why certain choices were made. Your deep love for and knowledge of the Baroness's book is wonderful and your alternate suggestion for how Marguerite might discover Percy's true identity is a very intelligent and theatrical one. I had many different ideas about how to handle the discovery. Ultimately I came to the choice I did for several reasons: 1) I didn't want Marguerite to know the truth while she was in England- I wanted the exciting fast-paced finale sequence (sparked by the discovery) to take place entirely in France, amidst all the chaos and danger; 2) I didn't want Marguerite's discovery of the truth to be a solo song- I wanted it to be a faster, more heart-racing moment, and most importantly, a Marguerite solo discovery song simply could not be placed so close to Percy's solo discovery song on the footbridge ("She Was There"). It would have cut away tremendously (both in content and momentum) from Percy's ecstatic moment when he discovers he can trust Marguerite after all, and that then propels him and us into the sheer energy of the voyage to France. It was also vital in the footbridge scene to have Marguerite's sole focus be on saving Armand- this not only makes Percy love her more for her loyalty to her brother, it also makes it easy for us to believe that Marguerite would be desperate enough to travel alone to France herself; 3) I came up with the idea of the carriage ride and adored it and suddenly knew that this fun and crazy setting was where I wanted the discovery, with Armand making all his lovably clumsy gaffes and slips, and the two of them bouncing all over that carriage as she realizes the truth and her heart jolts ever higher along with the carriage; 4) Finally, I wanted her to only know the truth right before she comes face to face with Percy- I wanted her extreme excitement to smack right into the duel. - Believe it or not, there were other reasons as well that had to do with staging, directorial preferences, etc. - So there you are. But you can see from your suggestion and from my list of reasons that one could make any number of choices about this critical moment. Kimberly, thanks so much for writing. It was fun for me to think back on the reasons I made this decision. My best to you- Nan

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