“The Scarlet Pimpernel” opens MTD’s season

Cast members listen to director of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" Fred Love giving blocking notes.
Courtesy of Ellen Teucke
Cast members listen to director of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” Fred Love giving blocking notes.

“This show is not your ordinary musical,” said Alex Benoit, a sophomore acting major. “Yes it has dancing, yes it has singing, yes it has acting, but it is very rare that you can find a show that can mix that with an incredibly interesting setting. A time period we’ve developed through costuming and sets and all our accents.”

Benoit plays the villain, named Chauvelin, in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” Oakland University’s Music, Theatre and Dance Department’s (MTD) opening show for the season.

The musical is based on a play and novel by Baroness Orczy, which takes place in the 1790s during the French Revolution.

During the Revolution, the lower class overthrows the king and his incredibly lavish court. Soon, being a member of royalty is enough to lead to persecution and death via the guillotine. French aristocrats are being executed and their English counterparts band together to save them.

The hero and leader, the Scarlet Pimpernel, is only identified by the drawing of a flower he leaves on his messages. Described by the cast as an 18th-century Batman, he remains a mystery until the end.

This show, an admittedly difficult one, is taken on with gusto by the actors, designers and crew of MTD.

In order to get the production to top-notch quality, the cast and crew have been rehearsing non-stop.

Maggie Hinckley, who plays Marguerite St. Just and is a senior majoring in musical theatre, took over Oakland’s Snapchat on Sept. 27 to show everyone an average day in rehearsal.

“It was nice to give people a glimpse into what it’s like being a theatre major,” Hinckley said. “A lot of people think we just mess around and have fun all day, and they’re right. We do have a lot of fun all day, but we also do a lot of really, really hard work.”

Emily Stoddard, a sophomore majoring in theatre design and tech, and the props master for “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” can testify to the hours of work and research the cast and crew has put into the show.

“It really showcases a lot of student work regarding both tech and acting,” she said. “It’s one of the largest shows we’ve done. And there’s just a massive amount of talented singers and actors and dancers. It’s got a little bit of everything.”

Audiences attending the show can expect lavish costumes, full-fledged fight scenes, a historically accurate set and a sweeping score.

“If I had to explain the plot, it’s like ‘Les Miserables’ meets Robin Hood meets Batman,” Hinckley said.

Benoit hopes the audience leaves questioning their sense of right and wrong.

“I hope the audience will leave feeling like they’ve not only enjoyed, but been excited, but feeling like they have a new perception on a place and time, and a new perception of what musical theatre can be,” Benoit said.

“The Scarlet Pimpernel” opens Thursday, Oct. 6 and runs until Oct. 16. Shows are at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. General admission is $20, but students can receive discounted tickets at $12. Tickets can be purchased at the Varner Hall box office, the Center for Student Activities and Leadership Development service window, or online at startickets.com.