B’way’s ‘Pimpernel’ reworked, recast

Smith, York waiting in wings

Two months after taking up with its new sugar daddy, Cablevision Systems, the Broadway musical “The Scarlet Pimpernel” is getting a nose job and a fanny tuck, and hiring itself some new help.

The troubled tuner is estimated by insiders to have lost close to $2 million since opening Nov. 9, 1997, and consequentially is having surgery on its opening and closing segments — parts that are being “significantly reshaped,” according to a production source.

Robert Longbottom, its new director and choreographer, is expected to substantially rework the tuner with Nan Knighton, its book writer, and the final result is expected to be somewhat shorter.

“The goal here is to make it better, not shorter. But as a result, it will probably get shorter anyway,” said a production insider.

New leads

The show is also inking deals to recast its lead roles in an effort to reignite the stalled tuner. One knowledgeable person confirmed that Rex Smith (who’s appeared on Broadway in “Grease,” “Grand Hotel” and “Anything Goes”) has inked a deal to replace current co-star Terrence Mann. Rachel York will also ink (her credits on Broadway include “City of Angels” and “Les Miserables,”) to replace love interest Christine Andreas.

The casting centerpiece, though, remains Tony-nominated star Douglas Sills, who’d originally won better notices than the show itself. He’ll continue to play both the hapless noble as well as the daring alter ego Pimpernel for an additional six months.

Readying for change

The rest of the show’s ensemble cast is currently working 12-hour days, with York, Smith and Sills doing one performance for rehearsal during the day, and with Mann, Andreas and Sills doing the usual tuner for audiences at night.

The changeover should occur after it shutters for a week, Oct. 5-9, when Robert Longbottom, who replaced original choreographer Adam Pelty and director Peter Hunt (Daily Variety, Aug. 13), will implement the technical changes and newly rehearsed numbers.

On July 23, Cablevision’s Radio City Entertainment, along with original co-producer Ted Forstmann, bought out the show’s original co-producers Pierre Cossette, Bill Haber, Hallmark Entertainment and Nederlander exec Kathleen Raitt. The idea was and remains, says an RCE insider, to mine the untapped reserves of nontraditional theatergoers who live in New York suburbs and to use the heft of Cablevision’s massive metro area subscriber base for advertising to draw in more crowds.

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