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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Books to Music: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
You can tremble, you can fear it
But keep your fighting spirit alive boys
Let the shiver of it sting you
Fling into battle, spring to your feet boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Never doubt that your courage will grow
Hold your head even higher and into the fire we go

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my favorite stories ever and my love kinda started with this musical.  A friend recommended it to me but I couldn't really get into the soundtrack because I was unfamiliar with the book.  So I read the book, listened to the musical and completely fell in love.  It doesn't quite capture the book - I think the book is nearly impossible to adapt as it is because of various reasons (which I don't want to reveal in case you haven't read it) but I do think this musical captures the characters - and makes the character of the Pimpernel so engaging and believable.  The actor to play him in the musical - Douglas Sills - is amazing at all the facets he must portray of this character - a sensitive romantic, an adventurer, someone who is cunning and intelligent and deeply devoted to his cause, and someone who can pretend to be ridiculously inane and foppish.  The musical underwent some changes from the original broadway cast recording but the OBC is the only commercially available recording so I will be referring to it in this post.

The songs that capture the romance and despair that the Pimpernel feels are probably my favorite ones in this musical.  "Believe", "Prayer" and "She Was There" are moving ballads that show such deep emotions that they almost always make me want to tear up.  Even when it's happy, it is so beautifully touching to hear the deep emotions in these songs.  Marguerite's song "When I Look At You" is also a deeply moving song of regret and love and is another example of the brilliant way the songs in this musical captures the heightened emotions of the characters.  But again there's more to this story than all that heart-hurting romance because the Pimpernel embarks on many daring missions to save the innocent victims of the French Revolution.  And while the gravity of the situation is addressed in various scenes, there is a sense of boyish glee in how the rescues are portrayed on stage and in the music.  There are inspiring and fun songs to bring everything to life and probably one of the best parts of the show is the humor that comes from the Pimpernel's attempts to convince people that he could not possibly be the one causing such havoc in France.  "The Creation of Man" is a truly clever patter song with an argument to why men should be more concerned with keeping up their physical appearances and wearing pretty clothes than off being brave and fighting.  It's such a funny scene in the show.

I feel like I have to do justice to the villain of the show as well - Chauvelin - who has some great songs that bear out how much he believes in what he is doing; so much so that it is difficult to find fault with his actions when he thinks he is doing the right thing.  The mark of a great villain I think.  Unlike the book, the musical adds a seductive note to Chauvelin's character which makes him even more interesting to watch.

This musical is so close to me, that I wish everyone would give it a listen because it has all the things that make musicals a joy to me - humor, romance, and danger, and all set to catchy tunes, with wonderfully clever lyrics.  Everyone that I've introduced this musical to has loved it and I hope that if any readers here check it out, they will feel the same! But first read the book!

Song Spotlight: You Are My Home
If you click on the link above, you'll see a performance of this song on the Rosie O'Donnell Show by the original cast and you get a bit of back story to where the song functions in the show as well.  So highly recommend watching that.  But first, I'll say that this is not my favorite song in the show ("Believe" is) but I picked this song for the spotlight because it is an intensely gorgeous melody.  I remember when I first heard it, it literally raised the hair on my arms, because it's so beautiful.  It's a song sung between brother and sister when they believe they will die soon at the guillotine and that despair and deep love mingle very well to create such a breathtaking and moving song.  The original has better orchestration than that youtube link by the way, but I couldn't find the original on youtube.

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4 comments:

  1. I love The Scarlet Pimpernel, it's such a great (and fun) story! I recently got back into it again after reading the Across a Star-Swept Sea retelling, and I'll definitely be checking out the music. I'm glad you really liked the musical, I'm excited to start listening. :)

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

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    1. Oh yes, I was so excited about Across a Star-Swept Sea being a retelling of Pimpernel! It kinda made me want to listen to this musical again. If you ever have a chance to see a performance of this (small theatre performance or school maybe) than you should! It's excellent live!

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  2. I've only heard a few songs from the musical, as my housemate at uni was obsessed with The Scarlet Pimpernel and had everything possible relating to it! I loved the book though =)

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    1. Oh you're roomie had great taste in musicals! :D You should listen to the whole soundtrack sometime - on youtube maybe - it's so pretty and stirring! :)

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