Composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Nan Knighton's The Scarlet Pimpernel began as a 1992 concept album dominated by singer Linda Eder, whose duet with Peabo Bryson on "You Are My Home" was a minor adult contemporary chart entry. Much retooled, a Broadway production opened on November 9, 1997, starring Douglas Sills in the title role, with Christine Andreas as the female lead, Marguerite, and Terrence Mann as the villain, Chauvelin. Reviews were devastating, but a cast album was released in February 1998, and despite posting substantial losses each week, the show remained open and was acquired by a new production company. This company revamped the show, bringing in a new director and replacing Andreas with Rachel York and Mann with Rex Smith, then re-launched it on November 4, 1998. The Scarlet Pimpernel: Encore is an attempt to address changes in the production by revising the cast album. Basically, this is a reissue of the 1998 disc with four tracks by the new co-stars and, oddly enough, two tracks brought back from the 1992 concept album. Fifteen of the 25 tracks from the cast album are retained; of the other ten, five have been dropped, and several songs have been resequenced. (It should be noted that these revisions do not entirely bring the album into line with the revised stage version.) So, what difference do the changes make in an overall assessment of The Scarlet Pimpernel? Not much. It remains a relatively lightweight, derivative effort, borrowing from My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, and especially Les Miserables. Smith is an inferior Chauvelin, while York is a slightly superior Marguerite, but still no match for Linda Eder. The Scarlet Pimpernel: Encore is hard to justify from any but an economic standpoint. In their liner notes, Wildhorn and Knighton make much of the show's fans, but the album requires them to buy a new disc just to get four new versions of songs they already may have one or two versions of. As for the show itself, it finally closed, becoming, reportedly, the most expensive flop in Broadway history, only to launch a national tour.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann