A Review of Starlight Mountain Theatre’s “The Scarlet Pimpernel”: 5 Reasons to Read the Book, Watch the Movie, and See the Play

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Just yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing Starlight Mountain’s stage production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and boy, was it a spectacle! I had seen the play before (on a much larger scale), but this one was done with such a simple, yet impassioned panache, that it is worth mentioning. First, being an outside theater with a limited budget, they did not focus very much on set design, which I think, due to the extravagance of their costumes and the quality of their acting/singing, was a wise move. The amount of talent on stage was enough to compensate for the lack of props. Also, not much overacting or underacting ensued; a lot of the humor was either improvised or incorporated in a way I haven’t seen done yet, such as breaking the third wall and adding some modern humor to a musical set in the 18th century.

As an overall play, “The Scarlet Pimpernel” is a magnificent piece of art that drips with drama, satire, history, and suspense and I think that if anybody ever has any opportunity to see it, don’t walk, but RUN to the theater!

Starlight Mountain Theater has four more shows, so if you’d like to witness an inspiring, well-acted, fun and laughable historical drama, you can purchase tickets here.

This play is based off of Baroness Orczy’s classic novel The Scarlet Pimpernel. The overall story follows beautiful French actress Marguerite St. Just and the illusive British Robin Hood-like figure known as the Scarlet Pimpernel whose goal is to save as many aristocrats as he can from being executed by the guillotine.

Disgusted by the revolution that had soaked her home country with blood, Marguerite falls in love with and marries the illustrious English Sir Percy Blakeney. But things are not as they seem. She becomes unhappy in her marriage…where was the dashing young man she had married and who was this incorrigible fop who had taken his place?

After marrying Sir Percy, she finds her world grayer than ever, especially when she becomes blackmailed by her once-lover Citoyen Chauvelin, an important leader against the Ancien Régime who sends French aristocrats to their deaths upon Madame La’ Guillotine. After Marguerite learns of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and how he is able to outsmart even the shrewd Chauvelin, she must race against the clock to evade the blackmail that Chauvelin has used against her. However, little does she know that this Scarlet Pimpernel and his league of loyal friends are closer to her acquaintance than she initially realized.

5 Reasons to read the book:

  • It’s a classic tale that effectively illustrates the power of friendship and staying true to what is right, no matter the cost
  • It is a beautiful piece of historical fiction that teaches a lot about the decline of the Ancien Régime and the emergence of the French Revolution
  • It tells the story in a unique way that focuses on different characters’ points of view (through limited omniscience narration)
  • The reveal is subtle, but works for the plot of the story and through Marguerite’s perspective
  • In addition to Marguerite, it gets us into the minds of the bystanders, so that the reveal of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s true identity is not as obvious from the beginning

5 Reasons to watch the movie (1982 version):

  • Even though we know who the Scarlet Pimpernel is at the beginning, suspense is weaved throughout the story by exhibiting the Pimpernel’s many elusive disguises, inviting the audience to ask the question, “will he get caught this time?”
  • Stellar cast including: Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellan (Gandalf? Of course!)
  • We see a heartwarming love story that has us rooting for the main couple
  • The lack of special effects makes the sword-fighting scenes, the chases, and the overall story more believable and valuable to the viewers (and, no doubt, the actors too)
  • Story veers a different direction from the book/play where they must save the crowned prince. To me, this added an extra dose of suspense and specific purpose.

5 Reasons to see the play:

  • The story is tailored to fit the stage versus the film, so there is much more flamboyancy, making the character of Sir Percy and his merry league of brothers-in-arms very hysterical to watch
  • Excellent choreography; including sword-fights, dancing, and stage presence
  • Focuses more on and characterizes better the members of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Gives more of a background on the origins/creation of the the Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Outlandish costumes (all for the excellent purpose of their characters playing characters), and exceptional score

My favorite thing about these many different adaptations, is that even though they interpret the story differently, each exhibiting a more liberal creative license, they are all still memorable productions of exceptional quality! Each creation unveiled the Scarlet Pimpernel in very different ways, but each left me with the same end-result: fulfillment and appreciation for the story and its characters.

Tailored to fit the screen and stage can be a disastrous business but adapting a story as classic and morally sound as this is one has proved time and time again to inspire me. Regardless of the medium, as long as future creators respect the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel and its characters, I believe that this story is one that will continue to stand the test of time!

Published by Ashley Weaver

I am a writer, reader, student, and teacher of literature and the English language.

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