Sparkle by Starlight 

Outdoor summer theater continues in Garden Valley

click to enlarge Michelle Hudson is the lovely Marguerite, loved by two men, the evil, powerful Chauvelin (Sterling Blackwell), center, and Sir Percival (Ben Clagg), in The Scarlet Pimpernel. - MARIE D. GALYEAN
  • Marie D. Galyean
  • Michelle Hudson is the lovely Marguerite, loved by two men, the evil, powerful Chauvelin (Sterling Blackwell), center, and Sir Percival (Ben Clagg), in The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The buzz in Boise, and throughout the Treasure Valley, is about the musical theater under the stars, nestled among the fragrant pines and rolling hills of Garden Valley.

Starlight Mountain Theatre, in its seventh summer season, continues to fulfill the dream of its founders, Ed and Jan Davis, by growing bigger and better every year.

Now, in addition to the outdoor theater productions, Starlight directors and players are writing and producing murder mysteries for the Thunder Mountain Express. Along with an elegant dinner and wine, passengers participate in solving a mystery, all while enjoying spectacular scenery and musical entertainment.

In Garden Valley, the summer season 2006 began in June with the Andrew Lloyd Webber international comedy hit, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, based on the biblical story of Joseph, his 12 brothers and the coat of many colors. That show ended in July, and now there are three shows running in repertory: Hello, Dolly! which runs through Aug. 25; The Scarlet Pimpernel which closes August 26 and Oklahoma! which will close September 9.

Although the Starlight Mountain Theatre locale seems far away from city lights and bustle, it's actually only about 45 minutes from the Highway 55 turn off at State Street in Boise. For our anniversary celebration, my husband and I headed up the scenic highway to attend The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is a new production for the theater group this year. It is an exciting and seldom-seen drama with beautiful music, excellent singing, comedy and adventure, including some nifty sword fights. It takes place at the peak of the French Revolution and the colorful period costumes are gorgeous.

Directed by Ed Davis, with choreography by his wife, Jan, the show seemed a bit stately and measured, as the cast wound its way through the script's intricacies. However, we saw the production early in its run, with only two performances under its belt. The story follows the adventures of newlywed Sir Percival Blakeney, portrayed by the energetic Ben Clegg. Percy has learned that a good friend has been executed by the cruel French regime, and he and his friends form the unique league of the Scarlet Pimpernel to fight the French oppressors.

As a disguise, the men pretend to be a bunch of silly fops, interested only in social events and stylish clothes. This provides not only audience-pleasing hilarity and exaggerated affectations, but also a chance for the costumer to go wild with colors for the satin styles in frothy lavender, pink, canary yellow, salmon and lime. When they all appear at the elegant ball for the Prince of Wales, the men's outfits outshine the women's and the villain of the story, the French fanatic Chauvelin, cap-a-pie in ominous black, makes a striking contrast.

Chauvelin is dynamically played by Starlight newcomer Sterling Blackwell, a recent Brigham Young University graduate. Blackwell creates a cold, malevolent strength for the Frenchman that is chilling in spite of the warm evening breezes. He stalks the stage with the intensity of a dedicated predator, and even in his declaration of love for Percy's bride, Marguerite, there is an aura of danger, evil and determination.

The Scarlet Pimpernel offers a delightful evening of adventuresome men and the women who love them--an old-fashioned adventure tale with surprises, disguises, and a satisfying battle between good and evil.

Pimpernel has five more shows: Aug. 11, 14, 17, 24, ending Aug. 26.

If you really want to make an evening of it, the theater has arranged for full-course dinners, designed to complement each individual play's theme, catered by the Runaway Restaurant.

Hello, Dolly! runs August 10, 16, 19, 22 and 25. It is a delightful visit with matchmaker Dolly Levi and her campaign to capture the heart of "half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder. Dolly is played by Marnie Kelley.

SMT also presents Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein, a celebration of frontier life, set in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. It depicts romance in a simpler time, and a territory ready to become a state. It features Staci Thorne of Nampa as Laurie, Tyson Duffin as Curly and Skye McClure as Will Parker. This musical will run tonight and August 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, September 1, 2, 4, 8 and 9.

Recreational vehicle hook-ups and camping sites are available. Bring your bug spray, just in case.

SMT dinners are $16.50 and are served at 6:30 p.m. on Thur., Fri. and Sat. Reservations should be made at least 24 hours in advance. Vegetarian meals are also available upon request. Water, lemonade and iced tea are provided with meals. No outside food or drinks are allowed.

Thunder Mountain Express' murder mystery dinner trains depart from Cascade on Aug. 19, Sept. 16 and Oct. 14. The Horseshoe Bend trains are scheduled for Oct. 7, Nov. 4 and 18. For more information, check www.thundermountainline.com/moevents06.htm or call 1-877-IDA-RAIL or (208) 793-4425.

For more information, call Wes at 342-2187; or the box office at 462-5523; or on the Web at www.starlightmountaintheatre.com. The theater opens at 7:30 p.m. and shows begin at 8; after Aug. 27, doors open at 7 p.m. and curtain time will be 7:30.

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