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The Scarlet Pimpernel
at St. Xavier High School

Reviewed on April 11, 2008

Mother of Mercy
Cincinnati Enquirer
Princeton High School
Cincinnati Enquirer
Princeton High School
Cincinnati Enquirer
Mother of Mercy
Cincinnati Enquirer
Princeton High School
Cincinnati Enquirer
Ursuline Academy
Cincinnati Enquirer
Norwood High School
Cincinnati Enquirer
William Mason High School
Cincinnati Enquirer
Lakota West
Cincinnati Enquirer

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Emily Hautman
Mother of Mercy

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

The French Revolution typically evokes images of soldiers, uniforms, and the infamous guillotine, but “The Scarlet Pimpernel," armed with humorous musical renditions and men in excessively flamboyant costumes, transforms this war into a highly entertaining musical. St. Xavier High School, in its recent production of the piece, successfully found the balance between the drama and the humor of the work and gave a fully moving and entertaining performance.

The musical tells the tale of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel, played by Josh Borths, who used ingenuity in disguise and an eager band of followers to save those doomed to be victims of the guillotine while still balancing the politics of his own love life. In this role, Borths used a powerfully clear voice and impeccable comic timing to build believable chemistry in his relationship with his wife, Marguerite St. Just (Sarah White) and truly envelop the role of the Pimpernel.

A major strength of the production was the ability of Borths’ followers, the Bounders, to fully commit to their roles. These men, who accompanied the Pimpernel on his missions, embodied the serious nature of some scenes but more successfully brought continuous laughs as they mirrored the flamboyant nature first established by their leader.

Although each character in the cast was successful in remaining in character, some had difficulties embodying all aspects – namely accents. Though some did it successfully, others lost words and key points in their admiral attempt to make the performance more authentic. Even with the difficulties, however, everyone succeeded at hitting it at moments.

On a technical level, the 350 costumes of the musical, designed and constructed by the X-cellent Design Team, were elaborate and reflected not only careful attention to the period but also a dedication to the detail of the works. Additionally, the lighting, designed and operated by Josh Branch and Ryan Clark, created the ambience of the scenes by their use of strobe lights for lightning flashes and colored elements to focus the attention of the audience.

With precise comic timing, a high level of commitment to character, and complimentary technical elements, St. Xavier High School successfully brought humor to the story of the French Revolution in their performance of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and served this with flare to the audience.

Jenny Volfson
Princeton High School

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

Most love stories end with the romantic leads marrying and living happily ever after. For the stylish Englishman, Percy Blakeney and his French actress lover Marguerite, their happily ever after comes at the beginning of the show. However, when Percy begins to suspect his wife of conspiring with her former lover Chauvelin, he decides he must distance himself from his wife and forms a group of wealthy Englishmen to save the French from the guillotine. Percy himself becomes the bold, famous Scarlet Pimpernel.

Based on the novel by Baroness Orczy, the musical "The Scarlet Pimpernel" blends comedy, drama, suspense, and romance. All of these elements were handled beautifully by St. Xavier’s talented cast. Taking the lead role of Percy Blakeney, Josh Borths (cq) masterfully shifted from pretending to be a comic bounder to showing Percy’s true depth and passion. He was able to show off his fantastic voice in numbers like “Prayer” and “She was There." Another great side to Borth’s portrayal was his chemistry with his leading lady, Marguerite St. Just, as portrayed by Sarah White (cq). White had a beautiful and charming vocal quality to her voice and a compelling stage presence throughout the show.

Chauvelin, as portrayed by Jake Robinson (cq), is a dark character, and Robinson’s darkness served as a great foil to Percy’s comedic bounciness in several scenes of dialogue. Also from Marguerite’s past is her devoted brother Armand. As Armand St. Just, Tommy Boeing (cq) had a great performance and maintained a very consistent French accent throughout.

The entire ensemble maintained the energy of the show and had particularly strong vocals when male and female choruses combined. The chorus stayed together well both in singing and dancing, which was admirably student choreographed by Ben Lanham (cq) and Allison Turner (cq). An ensemble that particularly stood out was Percy’s Bounders who made up the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. These men did a great job of balancing their true passion for saving hundreds of lives with hiding from suspicion by pretending to be complete nincompoops.

Technical aspects of the show were done well with an effective set and hundreds of lovely hand-made costumes, completely created by students. The set crew did a great job of changing scenes without diverting attention from the action. In all St. Xavier’s performance was a triumph and a great audience-pleaser receiving a standing ovation at the end of the show.

Aaron Rutz
Princeton High School

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

A striking musical adventure full of wit and physical comedy, bold and suspenseful drama, songs and dances both passionate and light-hearted: all this and more were neatly bundled into a single display by St Xavier High School’s production of "The Scarlet Pimpernel."

Under the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy and his friends work to save the French aristocracy . His bride Marguerite’s (cq) mysterious past intertwines with the French agent Chauvelin (cq) who tirelessly pursues The Scarlet Pimpernel. These relationships unfold against the backdrop of the French Revolution.

As Sir Percy, Josh Borths (cq) had a massive role requiring great dexterity. Borths was astounding in his vocal ability, comedic presentation and sincerity. Borth’s solos (such as “Prayer”) had magnificent sound and flawless execution. Sarah White, playing opposite him as his new bride Marguerite, had nearly as much stage time and displayed just as riveting a talent on stage. Jake Robinson (cq) created a deep but villainous character in his deft portrayal of Chauvelin.

Percy’s “Bounders” were a particular highlight of the show. They were a group of nearly a dozen of Percy’s friends who become unlikely heroes. The group was unrelentingly passionate and highly entertaining. Percy and his gang escape detection by the French military by dressing as loony “fops” who pretend to be more concerned about clothing than a Revolution. The group’s songs such as “Into the Fire” and the tour de force “The Creation of Man” had excellent sound quality and engaging staging.

The full ensemble had a large amount of stage time as well. The company’s versatility and dedication was seen through their eerie singing in as “Madame Guillotine” followed by complete character changes and intricate dancing (choreographed by Ben Lanham and Allison Turner ) in the Masked Ball opening Act II.

Lending greatly to the show’s overall triumph were the many technical aspects, all visually dazzling. The “X-cellent” Design Team, all students, created elegant and striking outfits for all characters. Lighting by Josh Branch (cq) and Ryan Clark (cq) was flawlessly executed and interesting. The Stage Design was another accomplishment, enormous and realistic; it was expertly maneuvered by the stage crew led by Jimmy Loeffler (cq) and Ben Rudy (cq).

With high energy, clear purpose and strong efforts across the board, St Xavier’s production of The Scarlet Pimpernel was a distinguished success.

Katie Pieper
Mother of Mercy

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

Sir Percy Blakeney is the most fashionable man in all of England, as can be attested by his silly hat and sparkly waistcoat. Percy, every inch the fop, hardly seems the sort of man who’d risk life and limb in daring heroics. That, however, is exactly what he’d want you to think. As the hero of The Scarlet Pimpernel, recently performed at St. Xavier High School, Sir Percy sets off on a personal quest to save innocents from the guillotine during the bloodiest depths of the French Revolution.

As the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, Josh Borths was simply outstanding. Borth’s versatility was quite impressive as he switched easily back and forth from prancing hilarity to serious moments of crisis, bringing fresh honesty to every scene. Marguerite St. Just, Percy’s rather strong-willed French wife, was portrayed by Sara White with an intensity and earnestness that came through brilliantly in her many songs. Tommy Boeing radiated idealistic enthusiasm as Marguerite’s younger brother Armand. Though some actors struggled with the difficult French accent, Boeing did very well with his, adding subtle nuances that made his speech all the more believable. The formidable vocal and performance talents of the entire cast shined in the dark and passionate song “Madame Guillotine.” This song, led by the sinister Citizen Chauvelin (Jake Robinson ), featured an angry mob of Parisians fawning over their beloved guillotine and crying out for blood. As the ensemble raved and veritably crawled around the set, this song exemplified the high level of energy and dedication each cast member brought to the show.

The elegant costumes, including numerous fantastically colored and decorated ball gowns meticulously created by the X-cellent Design Team , gave the show an opulent and extravagant feel, really bringing to life the decadence of the time period. The lush and detailed sets, designed by Matt Filak , Mark Grote , and Emily Berg , effectively showed the complete contrast between the luxurious estates of England and the grimy streets of Paris. The many complicated set pieces, including a ship with enormous sails, climbable mast, and full size steering wheel, were moved efficiently by the stage crew, led by Jimmy Loeffler and Ben Rudy .

Hilarious and yet serious, filled with bloody revolutions and a song dedicated to the importance of flamboyant dressing, The Scarlet Pimpernel is a show with as many facets as a diamond. In their lively performance, St. Xavier mastered nearly all of them, creating a sparkling work of art sure to delight, invigorate, and entertain.

Joseph Echt
Princeton High School

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

Baroness Orczy’s classic hero, the Scarlet Pimpernel, came to life in the recent production of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" at Saint Xavier High School. Percy Blakeney, played by Josh Borths (cq), masquerades as the Scarlet Pimpernel and saves people from the terror of “Madame Guillotine” along with the Bounders, his loyal group of Englishmen. To convince Citizen Chauvelin, the suspicious Frenchman played by Jake Robinson (cq), that he is not the Scarlet Pimpernel, Percy acts like a nincompoop in front of all observers.

Borths had to play three different versions of Percy, as he used excellent vocal quality and humorous characterization to create a protagonist that was almost larger than life. The Bounders also helped to create the humor in their appearances, especially the flamboyant Elton (Nick Reynolds) (cq). Robinson, playing Chauvelin opposite Percy, had a fitting voice for the role and a believable French accent when he spoke. The female lead, Sarah White (cq), was Marguerite St. Just, an actress who marries Percy Blakeney at the beginning of the show and becomes suspicious about his frequent trips to Paris. White had admirable vocal quality and was able to hold her own in many songs resplendent with male vocalists.

Among the supporting cast for the Scarlet Pimpernel were many standout characters, such as Allison Turner (cq) who choreographed the larger dance numbers with Ben Lanham (cq) and made a commendable appearance as one of the Specialty Dancers. Joe Hackman (cq), the Prince of Wales, made a very funny appearance when receiving a makeover from the foppish Bounders who work to convince him that they are going to France simply to buy new clothes.

The Tech Crew for the Scarlet Pimpernel encountered infrequent problems with the audio equipment, but used varied lighting techniques to accurately portray the mood of the show. The best part of the show was the many costumes (over 240) made for the 48 character cast by the X-cellent design team. The costumes were all expertly designed and manufactured by students and looked like they had been professionally done.

Saint Xavier’s production of The Scarlet Pimpernel revitalized one of the less recognized literary heroes magnificently, and was well performed with few technical errors and an outstanding vocal cast.

Natalie Adler
Ursuline Academy

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

Sometimes the best way to remain inconspicuous is to be as conspicuous as possible. At least that’s what worked for the glittery outfit-wearing, handkerchief-waving, pompous exclamation-making hero in disguise in Theatre Xavier’s production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

Amidst the bloodshed and terror of the French Revolution, a courageous Englishman and his loyal friends risk their lives to save would-be victims of the guillotine. But to retain the anonymity that is vital to their safety and success, they must pretend to be the most pretentious and ridiculous fops in all of England.

St. Xavier’s production was held together by the versatility and commitment of the cast, as well as solid tech and formidable ensemble chemistry. Cast members were able to create distinct characters and be dedicated to them, and they also showed a remarkable ability to connect with one another. The technical aspects of the show were anchored by impressive set pieces, dazzling costumes, and consistently good lighting.

As Sir Percy, Josh Borths displayed both impressive vocal ability and keen dramatic and comedic intuition. Sarah White captured Marguerite’s poignant inward struggle with strong choices and soaring vocals. As the villain Chauvelin, Jake Robinson brought considerable character commitment and strong vocals to the stage.

One particularly striking aspect of this show was the difficult dance and fight choreography, which the cast made look easy and natural. The chemistry between Percy’s Bounders was extremely fun to watch, and their comic timing was flawless. Though members of the cast consistently struggled with maintaining accents, their focus never slipped. And although dramatic moments were occasionally slightly over-done, the well-executed comedy made up for it.

The props and set pieces for this production were numerous and incredibly well-done. The lighting design was flawless and intuitive, supporting the action onstage. But by far the most astounding tech accomplishment was the creation of the many beautiful and intricate costumes. The costume crew crafted more than 350 outfits, several of them from scratch.

The balance between the drama and the comedy of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” is a delicate one, but Theatre Xavier accomplished it with ease and grace.

Ashley Shelby
Norwood High School

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

The men are giddy in glittering attire, the wife may be a French spy, and Madame Guillotine reigns! St. Xavier High School’s production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” introduced audiences to a very amusing, very different sort of hero.

Written by Nan Knighton (cq) and Frank Wildhorn, “The Scarlet Pimpernel” is an adventurous story, set in the time of the French Revolution. At the center of this story is Sir Percival Blackeney (cq), a British fellow with a cunning plan to fight the cruel injustices served up by the guillotine. Cleverly disguising himself as a fop, Percy hides his identity as the “Scarlet Pimpernel,” becoming a notorious hero.

St. Xavier’s production was exceptionally executed, with the cast delivering every aspect of its intricate plotline to life. A wide range of emotions was represented, from gut-wrenching agony in “Madame Guillotine” to unabashed flamboyance in “The Creation of Men.”

Josh Borths, (cq) as Percy (cq), possessed tremendous versatility and range, taking his character from clever Brit, to an outrageous, flamboyant hero, to a mysterious spy and back again. Borths’ performance possessed an energy that never faltered each time he walked, pranced, or lurked onto the stage.

Sarah White (cq) demonstrated grace and poise in her role as Marguerite St. Just (cq). White’s charming personality and voice captured attention, especially in “You Are My Home.”

Chauvelin (cq), portrayed by Jake Robinson (cq), delivered a powerful performance, accomplishing each facet of his sinister character to the letter. In “Where’s the Girl?” and “The Riddle” Robison displayed strong vocals, with an intense sense of his character that made his performance truly noteworthy.

Often stealing the spotlight were Percy’s Bounders. With a quirky air and lovely dance routines, the Bounders made their stamp on the show. In addition, “Armand St. Just” (Tommy Boeing) took a smaller role and turned into a memorable one, exhibiting resolute strength through the torture his character had faced.

The works of tech and costume crews added vital elements to the performance. Even though minor sound glitches were present, the cast didn’t skip a beat, delivering lines with ease. Costumes (crew headed by Jenna Bertke cq) were elaborate and complex, staying true to the style of the era and adding a hint of glitz to some of the male costumes.

St. Xavier High School divvied up a laugh-riot portrayal of the French Revolution in their production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

Woody Goldsmith
William Mason High School

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

A band of masked crusaders rescue the persecuted French people while a villainous official tries to track them down and tighten his grip over the struggling society. The promise of action, thrills, and laughs delivered in Theatre Xavier’s exciting production of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

This swashbuckler tells the story of Percy Blakeney , a married man with a secret. Percy is The Scarlet Pimpernel, a man dedicated to preventing French injustice. But as his wife Marguerite and the wicked French official Chauvelin grow closer to discovering Percy’s secret, he must work harder to maintain his identity.

St. Xavier’s cast and crew achieved the balance the show required. They effectively conveyed the range of emotion, energy, and technical mastery needed to create an exceptional performance.

Josh Borths had the difficult task of having to transform his character from the sincere Scarlet Pimpernel to the flamboyant Percy at a moment’s notice. While Borths’ Pimpernel had dignity and integrity, his Percy was foolish and materialistic. His ability to change between the two was subtle but powerful. His vocals were also noteworthy, as was his chemistry with Marguerite, played by Sarah White.

As Chauvelin, Jake Robinson brought nuance and restraint to a character that could have been one-dimensional and over-the-top. His singing was powerful, and his menacing presence, his cold authority, and his hunger for power were strong assets to the production.

Technically, the production was stunning. The lighting crew, led by Josh Branch and Ryan Clark , set the mood for the show and handled the challenging effects well. The costume crew, led by Jenna Bertke created fabulous pieces for the actors. And, though there were some sound glitches, the actors continued and covered them nicely.

Theatre Xavier’s production of The Scarlet Pimpernel was a thrilling, hilarious journey into the heart of the France. Its cast and crew effectively presented an unforgettable, lively experience for the audience.

Jen Shroder
Lakota West

Submitted for publication to Cincinnati Enquirer

Adapted from Baroness Orczy’s early twentieth century novel, Frank Wildhorn and Nan Knighton’s musical "The Scarlet Pimpernel" depicts an Englishman’s valiant and successful attempts to save those fated to die at the guillotine at the start of the French Revolution. The show balances serious subject matter and comedic characters, as did St. Xavier High School in their recent production.

Thatre Xavier’s sets were spectacular, as were the costumes that the X-cellent Design Team put together, led by Jenna Bertke . The design team made over 350 period costumes for Pimpernel. The actors’ dress was lavish, period appropriate, and aesthetically pleasing throughout the show, often using similar color schemes for ensemble scenes.

The actors’ vocals were consistently impressive and managed to carry throughout the audience even when there were sound glitches. Whether it was Josh Borths (playing Percy Blakeney ) singing a pitch perfect “She Was There," or the entire ensemble singing a beautiful and dark rendition of “Madame Guillotine”, the harmonies were always on point. Jake Robinson (playing Chauvelin ) also wowed with his solo, “Where’s the Girl?”

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this show was the extensive choreography. Student choreographed by Ben Lanham and Allison Turner , many scenes had long dance breaks, sometimes during dialogue. The choreography for the Royal Ball was well-timed so that certain characters could carry on conversation while dancing. In addition to the Royal Ball dance, other impressive numbers included the wedding waltz and “The Creation of Men."

“The Creation of Men” was a standout number, not only because of its hilarity, but also for accomplishing the impressive feat of getting ten high school boys to dance in unison for a four minute song. The choreography was witty and inventive, the dancing was clean and impressive, and the vocals were strong and harmonic. Another example of the X-cellent Design Team’s work came into play in this number, for which Percy and his bounders were outfitted in sparkling and colorfully flamboyant outfits.

Theatre Xavier proved a success in a comedic arena. With lavish costumes, rich vocals, and a witty and touchy plot, The Scarlet Pimpernel provided suspense, laughs, and all-around entertainment for an audience that left with a buzz of general contentment.


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