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The Scarlet Pimpernel : Broadway's Most Intriguing Musical.

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Interview with David Cromwell

I had a lot of fun speaking with David, who has quite a wry sense of humor. Back in September when the show was being rewritten and rumors were rampant, one story had been leaked that the new version of the show would have three renditions of "You Are My Home." This seemed a bit much, so David was asked jokingly by a Leaguer if there was any truth to the rumor that Chauvelin and Robespierre would be singing a reprise of "You Are My Home?" Not missing a beat, David replied, "Hmm, it was considered, but it's been replaced by the `It's a Pretty Plan Chauvelin Tap Dance!'"

NR: Can you give me some background? Where did you grow up?

DC: I grew up not too far from here, north of the city. Do you know where Woodbury Common is?

NR: Yes. (Woodbury Common is a shopping center in Westchester County, New York.)

DC: That's my high school. I lived back there on the hill.

NR: Did you come into the city a lot to see shows?

DC: Yeah, but I didn't enjoy it much.

NR: Really? Why not?

DC: No, I didn't much like Broadway. The first show I saw was Camelot with Julie Andrews and it was transcending. It was incredible. I liked the shows, I liked the theater, the little bit I saw. I didn't see a lot of it. But, I never liked the city itself. I thought it was noisy and dirty and crowded and all those things. So, I never much liked it, but I certainly like it now. I love it now. It's a great city. I lived in California the last 6 years and I was glad to come back here.

NR: When did you decide to act?

DC: In high school.

NR: So, what type of training did you go for then?

DC: Well, I went to Ithaca College for four years and it was pretty intensive. Not that anybody knew what we were doing - it was a very small school. We just did a lot of plays and the ones that stuck to the wall worked and you learned a lot by your mistakes. I did 65 plays in four years, and that's a lot of plays. I remember doing three plays in one day.

NR: How did you keep that straight?

DC: I don't know, I don't know. You do it. You know, when you're young, it's pretty amazing what you can do. It was The Owl and the Pussycat, Becket, and at night was The Holly and the Ivy.

NR: Very different experiences.

DC: Yeah, it was amazing. Two in the afternoon and one at night.

NR: When I asked Ron Melrose about the conducting by the Prince of Wales in the ball scene, he told me that you are a conductor, that you've done some conducting. (incredulous look from David here.) (laughing) Well, you've fooled him if that's not true.

DC: I guess so, I've never trained. I remember once conducting the Peter Duchin Orchestra for a rehearsal, raising money for Channel 13 (PBS). I was conducting for Elaine Stritch. Elaine said to Peter, "He's the guy that knows what he's doing. Let him conduct the band." I was surprised, but I did it. But it's just like dancing. It's a rhythmic thing, that's all.

NR: You've been in many Broadway shows over the years...

DC: Only four or five.

NR: All right, that's enough. How does the experience with other shows compare to Pimpernel?

DC: That's funny, they either get easier or more difficult. I think they get easier. It's a tough question. The first one was The History of the American Film which came out of regional theater. Christopher Durang, and a whole bunch of really neat actors - Swoosie Kurtz, Brent Spiner, Gary Bauer, Maureen Andeman - wonderful regional theater and Broadway actors. It was a real "legit" kind of approach to a kind of "whiz-bang Christopher Durang" musical about the movies, and it was lots of fun to do. When it closed after 7 weeks, nobody was upset. We were in the wrong theater. We were in the old ANTA Theater, which is now the Virginia, which is a big barn. It's a very difficult venue in which to watch a play about what takes place between a camera and an actor. Whereas it had been done in three-quarters at the Krieger at Arena Stage and the audience was able to see in between that vector. It's not a proscenium kind of show. But anyway, that was great.

Drood was the best thing in the world. The Mystery of Edwin Drood was the best thing in the world because there are 465 permutations for the endings. There are three different points where the audience votes on up to six different outcomes and the combinations of that added up to 465 - ALL of which were scripted by Rupert Holmes. It was an amazing piece of theater, and it got better and better and better as we did it. We loved it.

Then I did Me and My Girl. That was a lot of fun. It's like this show in a way. It's a thing you take your parents to. You have a good time, you laugh. It's well done, first class, solid Broadway fare. That's what Me and My Girl is. I liked that. I did that on the road too with Tim Curry. That was fun.

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Interview conducted and photographs by Nancy Rosati.

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