Terrence Mann as Chauvelin

The Scarlet Pimpernel : Broadway's Most Intriguing Musical.

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Interview with William Paul Michals

NR: Did you know anything about this show's history before you auditioned for it?

WPM: I knew some of it. I'd been following it. I'd been in New York for a couple of years after coming back from the Toronto company of Beauty and the Beast. I followed it and I've seen the show grow and shrink and just change. It's been very interesting. I did have a chance to see each incarnation of the show. Chauvelin's music hasn't changed that much.

NR: That's true, and he hasn't changed much, but three very different people have played him in very different ways. Is that challenging to try and find your niche?

WPM: Yeah, it is. I try not to think about the other actors' portrayals too much, but I know each of the actors who have played the role and they're each very strong. If you're an attentive student of acting you can't help but absorb what they do. If I've absorbed good things that I can use to my advantage, that's good, but I've got my own take on the role.

NR: How do you describe your approach to Chauvelin?

WPM: He's a very strong minded man. He's idealistic but misguided. He's fanatical. He believes in the humanist, the enlightened development of man in society. Unfortunately it was coming at a time in France when there was a lot of bitterness and hatred towards the blue bloods and he found that the catharsis for him came from beheading all the royalty. He is a very visceral man. For him, blood and battle and combat and love and passion are very physical, very palpable experiences. He absorbed Rousseau and the other writers at that time in a very literal way - a very physical, as opposed to metaphysical way. He just got involved in that and he was never able to give himself over to the love for Marguerite with his soul and with his heart, as he was able to with his body. In fact, the way I play Chauvelin, it's just about the time of the beginning of the show when Marguerite has a very interested, very eligible lover calling upon her and Chauvelin is aware that Percival Blakeney is interested. Chauvelin is indeed getting up the courage and the wherewithal to make a more lasting commitment to Marguerite, and for me, that starting point serves me very well. The first scene of the show is a very bitter slap in the face to Chauvelin and it really helps to feed his actions throughout the show.

NR: I haven't seen this version yet, but I've heard rumors that Douglas (Sills) has been allowed to ad lib again.

WPM: (rolling eyes) Oh, yes. Oh, yes, to my dismay.

NR: Are you ready for anything?

WPM: I have learned all sorts of techniques, (hopefully they're invisible to the audience) to keep myself from laughing, because he is so funny.

NR: (laughing) Terry (Mann) used to bite the inside of his mouth, probably till it bled.

WPM: I am doing isometrics and thinking about horrible thoughts...whatever I have to do.

NR: Well, he's not going to stop until you laugh.

WPM: You're right. He's going to go and he's going to go...all I can say is, "L.A. look out!" because Douglas is just priming himself now. He's got an even bigger assignment in the show than he did in previous incarnations...

NR: ...which is completely amazing to me.

WPM: He is a magnificent actor and a magnificent singer and just a magnificent soul to have as part of the company. And I have to talk about Amy Bodnar as well because she's so beautifully talented and committed, and she does her own take on the role. She's taken the script and the music and developed a very completely fleshed out wonderful character. The rehearsal period for the show has been very enlightening for all of us.

NR: When did you begin rehearsals?

WPM: We started out in the beginning of January - Douglas, Amy and I.

NR: Douglas had to learn some new things, but he was way ahead of both of you obviously.

WPM: Yeah, but again, he's got a lot of words and a lot of business, so it was a privilege for all of us to have that time together and develop the show.

NR: Is he serious in rehearsal?

WPM: Oh, he is. He's a very serious actor. Don't confuse a comedian with not being serious about his trade, because he really is in all ways. He's so generous on stage and off. It gives a lot to the show.

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Interview conducted and photographs by Nancy Rosati.

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