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‘Pimpernel’ plans revamp

Helmer Longbottom in wings

Heads are rolling at the musical “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and not just from the onstage guillotine.

Three weeks after Cablevision Systems Corp.’s Radio City Entertainment bought out the limping tuner’s original producers and decided to take a chance on it, a source close to the production says Radio City execs are planning to bring in director Robert Longbottom, who helmed the Tony-nominated “Side Show,” to tweak the tuner. Peter Hunt was “Pimpernel’s” original director.

Cast question

Cast changes are coming too. Yearlong contracts for Tony-nominated Pimpernel Douglas Sills as well as love interest Christine Andreas and Terrence Mann are set to expire in September. But the producers are keen to keep Sills aboard and are in negotiations to extend his contract; he won better notices than the show itself.

Choreographer Adam Pelty is also out. Pelty, currently working on another project for the fall, leaves Longbottom to handle choreography as well.

A source close to the production confirms that tickets for the show are being held from sale in order to close the tuner from Oct. 5-9, when performances will be suspended temporarily to implement some of the technical changes and rehearse the newly altered numbers.

“Pimpernel” opened in November to weak notices in the print media, but managed to hang on through the Tonys in June. In recent months, business had begun to ebb.

Saving the day

On July 23, Cablevision Systems’ RCE, along with original co-producer entrepreneur Ted Forstmann, saved the show from imminent demise by buying out original co-producers Pierre Cossette, Bill Haber, Hallmark Entertainment and Nederlander exec Kathleen Raitt. The show is still losing between $80,000 and $100,000 a week for RCE and Forstmann, a source said, but the muscle of advertising the show on Cablevision suburban cable systems has not yet been flexed.

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