BY JENNIFFER WARDELL
Clipper Staff Writer
CENTERVILLE — Ambition, when done well, can be absolutely delightful to watch.
CenterPoint Theatre hits those heights with “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” a gorgeous, funny, tender and technically marvelous play that feels like more than anything the theater has attempted before. Despite an unusual number of opening night glitches, the immensely talented cast and crew have put together a supremely entertaining night of theater.
The story, which is set during the French Revolution, follows a English nobleman as he sets up a spy ring to help free those targeted for death by guillotine. There are also betrayals, secrets, romance, adventure and a high level of farce to complicate things.
Holly Jo Samuelson blows the roof off the theater as Margeurite Srt Just, stage star, beloved wife and possible French spy. Samuelson has professional skill and power that always seems meant for a larger stage, and the role of Margeurite finally makes full use of it. Her scenes with Percy, her new husband who happens to also be the Scarlet Pimpernel, are exquisitely tender.
David Weekes brought a nice dose of silky menace to Chauvelin, the show’s designated villian. His voice was impressive enough that I want to hear him play Javert in “Les Miserables.”
As Percy, Brett Bradford has a strong, emotional voice that isn’t quite as technically perfect as Samuelsons. When it comes to comedy, however, the man is second to none. His scenes as a fop are delightful from beginning to end, with Brandford milking every exaggerated line for all the laughs it’s worth. He’s also good in more serious moments, but when he’s being funny you can’t help but fall in love with him.
Though I can never tell when a director’s contribution ends and an actor’s begins, director Scott Montgomery clearly has an eye for the little grace notes that make people want to keep coming back to a show. The first big prisoner escape is a great example of this, with enough happening to make the audience wish for more than one pair of eyes. My personal suggestion would be to pay attention to the two men in ladies’ dresses, but there’s entertainment to be had no matter where you look.
The costumes were equally fantastic, with special prizes going to the outfits for “The Creation of Man” song. The outfits were hilarious, the hats even more so, and theymade an already funny scene that much funnier.
The stage crew outdid themselves as well, creating a concinving stormy sea using only a fog machine and wave projections. I also loved the guillotine, and can confirm that the heads do indeed fall into the basket. Though clapping wasn’t appropriate at either moment it was used, I was tempted to applaud.