The Scarlet Pimpernel

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Composer Frank Wildhorn took a leaf from the early career of Andrew Lloyd Webber by organizing recordings of his musical works before producing them for the stage. His third show, The Scarlet Pimpernel, like his first effort, Jekyll and Hyde, is a classic story about a man who is two different things, though in the composer's hands it becomes a vehicle for Wildhorn's female muse, Linda Eder. Indeed, with her name listed above the title on the album cover, which features a picture of her, one could easily mistaken this for an Eder solo album. There are a few choral numbers reminiscent of Les Miserables, but nine of the 15 vocal tracks feature Eder's Streisand-like timbre, and many of them are given treatments that sound more appropriate to AC radio than the stage, as lyricist Nan Knighton notes. "Presented here with a pop interpretation," she says of one; "performed here in a contemporary arrangement," of another, but what it really adds up to is what AC calls "power ballads." And the intention was fulfilled, as Eder and Peabo Bryson's duet "You Are My Home" made the adult contemporary charts. But as what Wildhorn calls "a theatrical work in progress," The Scarlet Pimpernel on this elaborate demonstration recording sounds like it has a long way to go, musically and structurally.

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