The Three Musketeers
nytheatre.com review by Trav S.D.
April 21, 2005
Wings Theatre Company’s production of Clint Jefferies and Paul L. Johnson’s new musical The Three Musketeers has passed a very severe test. I strongly dislike most musicals, and most modern musicals even more. Yet I find that I can’t say enough good things about The Three Musketeers.
Above all, Jefferies’s book and lyrics show a thorough respect for Dumas’s original, crediting the audience with sufficient intelligence to follow its arcane intrigues and centuries-old mores. Familiarity with the book and its many stage and screen adaptations will enhance your appreciation but aren’t necessary. Young D’Artagnan (Ryan Boda) comes to Paris seeking his fame and fortune and befriends the eponymous musketeers (who curiously always fight with swords and never muskets): Athos (Stephen Cabral), Porthos (David Weitzer), and Aramis (David Velarde). The King they serve, Charles XIII, is a weak-willed fop (hilariously portrayed by Josh Grisetti in a Veronica Lake wig, lipstick, and women’s shoes). The real power behind the throne is the hissable villain Cardinal Richelieu (David Macaluso), who, in an effort to consolidate his power, schemes to entrap the sensible queen Anne (Kim Reed) in her affair with the English Duke of Buckingham (David Garry). (In this very French story, we are on the side of all the adulterers: D’Artagnan has his own thing going with the married Constance Bonacieux, played by Nalina Mann.)
Richelieu’s prime agent of evil is the duplicitous Milady de Winter (Pamela Brumley), a black widow spider who’d sell out her grandmother if she thought it was to her advantage. As in all tellings of the tale we see far too little of our musketeers, who are primarily the comic relief and D’Artagnon’s allies in his many contretemps. This particular version focuses heavily on the wrongs of Milady, and her rather brutal comeuppance, justice of a rather Medieval sort, which this production very boldly does not shy away from.
The score matches the book in intelligence, and a good deal of the action is carried by the songs, making the show at times feel close to operetta. At close to three hours though, some trimming seems to be called for. Unlike Les Miserables, for example, the source material doesn’t seem to bear the gravity usually afforded such an epic treatment. A simple melodrama, it would make more sense at two hours, though I wouldn’t envy the task of removing any of the uniformly excellent material. The youthful cast go at it hammer and tongs and seem to be having a great deal of fun. The intimacy of the house makes their vocal performances even more of a treat. The show-stopping number at the end of the first act involving the whole cast will blow you away.
If Jefferies and Johnson create more musicals like this, it may make a convert out of this inveterate musical-hater.