Clint Jefferies’s adaptation of The Three Musketeers is true to the original -- a rollicking adventure story full of heroism and romance. If anything, it is too full of the stuff of the novel, to the point of almost sinking under its own weight.
The story is simple in outline, but baroque in detail. Young d’Artagnan (the feisty Ryan Boda), whose father used to be a member of the elite royal guard of musketeers, comes to Paris to serve Louis XIII (played for over-the-top camp by Josh Grisetti). By dint of being willing to duel with anyone, he makes his way into this elite company, where he and his buddies get embroiled in a complex plot to discredit the Queen (the noble Kim Reed) and cement the power of Richelieu (the slimy David Macaluso). The complexities of the plot involve stolen jewels, intrigue at the English court, and the machinations of the evil Milady de Winter (the charming but ruthless Pamela Brumphy). At the end, d’Artagnan just misses getting executed for treason, but Richelieu befriends him and lets him off the hook in a major anticlimax (faithfully copied from the original). (Richelieu arrests D’Artagnan and is about to have him executed for treason. But the hero has obtained a blanket pardon, signed by Richelieu himself, and gets Richelieu to let him off the hook, and even promote him. The problem is that, at least in this production, Richelieu is so evil it is not credible that he would choose the path of honor and do anything against his own interests. As a result, this major plot twist looks even more contrived than it did in Dumas’s day.)
Adapter Jefferies does a good job of explicating the twists and turns of the plot, which threaten to smother the play at every turn. Sometimes fidelity must give way to the editor’s pencil, especially when the details begin to seem like a repetitious rendering of the original’s story just because it’s there. (Some of the biggest fights and most exciting action were narrated, probably because there just wasn’t room to squeeze them in.) And why were the musketeers sometimes working for the King and sometimes guarding Richelieu? But everyone in the production made the most of the material created by Dumas and so faithfully rendered by Jefferies. Director Corrick (who moved the action along effectively without wasted motion) and music director Johnson mostly cast for singing ability first, starting with the three Musketeers themselves. In particular, Stephen Cabral (Athos) had a strong, deep voice, and David Velarde (Aramis) showed wonderful breath control. (D’Artagnan’s singing voice betrayed a tentative upper register, but his acting ability was more than up to the mileage required by the part.) Most of the speaking parts offered well-etched cameos, a credit to cast and director as well as novelist and playwright.
The costumes (Tom Claypool) were colorful , consistent, and appropriate to the characters. While the lighting (unsurprisingly in such a large space) was uneven, the projected trees during the execution of Milady were effective. So was Kymberli E. Morris’s fight choreography. The set comprised faux-stone walls and pillars that were sufficiently abstract to serve a variety of purposes.
The songs had masculine vitality, with accessible lyrics and muscular music, but not to the exclusion of songs of love and reflection. A few standouts were the beautiful counterpoint of the quartet “Don’t Speak of Love” and the lovely duet “I Loved Her” (by the estimable David Garry and Fausto Pineda, as Buckingham and Felton respectively). It seemed that the electronic keyboard got progressively louder as the evening progressed, to the point that the triple-fortissimo ending showed significant distortion. All those singers, all that counterpoint, and all that volume made the words indistinguishable, which was a shame, as everyone on stage seemed to be having so much fun.
(Also featuring Nigel Columbus, Christopher Gleason, Elisa Winter, David Weitzer, Alexander Elisa, Stephen Raman, Tim Ott, Stephen Smith, Nalina Mann, Lynn Henderson, and Adrienne Couvillion.)
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Copyright 2005 John Chatterton