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"The Secret Garden: The Musical," April 17-26, On Stage Productions, 351-6751.
"The Three Musketeers," April 17-25, USC Longstreet Theatre, 777-2551.
"Player King," April 23-26, USC Lab Theatre, 777-2551.
"Steel Magnolias," April 30 - May 10, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.
"Annie Get Your Gun," May 1-17, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.
"Lend Me A Tenor," May 8-17, Workshop Theatre, 799-6551.
"Motherhood Out Loud," May 8-23, Chapin Theatre Company at Chapin Firehouse (May 8-9) and Saluda Shoals Park (May 21-23), 240-8544.
"Spamalot," May 8-30, Town Theatre, 799-2510.
"Other Desert Cities," May 8-23, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.
"Bill W. and Dr. Bob," May 29 - June 13, Trustus Side Door Theatre, 254-9732.
Press Releases for Current Shows
Camden Community Theatre
Center Stage Youth Theatre
Chapin Theatre Company
Columbia Children's Theatre
On Stage Productions
Ritz Theatre of Newberry
SC Shakespeare Company
Stage 5 Theatre
Sumter Little Theatre
Village Square Theatre
Theatre SC's Modern Adaptation of “The Three Musketeers” is Fun For the Whole Family
Review by August Krickel.
Rapiers are drawn, wits clash, daggers are brandished, and plots are hatched in an action-packed yet family-friendly update of The Three Musketeers, running through this weekend at USC's Drayton Hall. Playwright Ken Ludwig, best known for broad farces like Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo, has an interest in the classics as well, and has previously penned adaptations of Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, and the Restoration comedy The Beaux' Stratagem for the stage. Here he takes the core plot of the famous adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas, distills it to its barest essence, then adds an array of stage tricks and techniques to make the potentially dated material (palace intrigue in 1625 Paris written for a 19th century French readership) accessible to a modern and younger audience. Director Robert Richmond has taken this a step further, employing his trademark visual flair to depict the proceedings as seen through the eyes of an enraptured little girl (Miranda Bourne), encountering the story for the first time. The result is sometimes both amusing and surreal, occasionally silly and/or thrilling, but never boring.
While the plot really isn't the point, I must say that
Ludwig's script makes its intricacies crystal-clear, moreso than any previous
version I've seen, and he remains absolutely faithful to the original, with one
vital exception: Planchet, D'Artagnan's comic manservant is now a girl. Not
just any girl, but rather D'Artagnan's non-canonical, gamine-like little
sister, Sabine. Their father is sending Sabine off to a convent school in
Paris, and it makes sense for her brother to accompany her on his way to seek
enlistment with the Musketeers (imagine a 17th-century Special Forces
team.) Sabine has her own ideas, however, and is as handy with a sword as
her father and brother. A female swashbuckler is a nifty notion, although
not new: Maureen O'Hara famously played the daughter of Aramis in the film At
Sword's Point, and a pre-Samantha Kim Cattrall turned up as the daughter of
the villainous Milady de Winter in Richard Lester's Return of the Musketeers.
Nicole Dietze does a great job as Sabine, and is up for the physicality that
the role requires. William Vaughan is similarly a good fit for the role of
D'Artagnan, full of the foolishness, impetuosity and idealism of youth. Both
performers have mastered swordplay techniques, as well as the comic banter that
typifies the play's dialogue. Ludwig short-changes Sabine with time on stage,
however, and I do wish she had been even more integral to the plot, which as in
the original focuses on D'Artagnan's adventures with the titular trio.
In this pared-down version, that trio isn't given much
opportunity to develop their specific characters either, but Benjamin
Roberts as Athos, Dimitri Woods as Porthos, and Matthew Cavender as Aramis do
their best with what they're given. My only gripe here would be their seeming
youth, as they appear to be only slightly older than D'Artagnan, rather than
the jaded, world-weary veterans more commonly portrayed. That's not a huge
problem, although the appearance of more years of melancholy would have made
some revelations about Athos's past more meaningful. John Floyd gets plenty of
laughs as an addled and foppish King Louis who just loves balls. That's
the fancy-dress kind, in one of the play's many ba-da-boom-ching jokes that can
be hilarious, tedious, or both, depending on how broad you like your comedy.
Lisa Martin-Stuart's costumes reflect the period appropriately,
although I would have liked to see Richelieu in more traditional Cardinal's
robes. Wigs by Valerie Pruett are outstanding; this was an era where men and
women alike had lots of full flowing hair, and not only do the wigs look
natural, but more importantly none fall off during the play's many action
scenes. Scenic Designer Tamara Joksimovic's set is intentionally dream-like,
with suggestions of stairs, columns, and street facades. Its main component is
rotated by cast members to reveal assorted locations, and while I might have
preferred more realism, it certainly does its job, especially given that
director Richmond establishes early on that we are seeing the story of the
Musketeers as imagined by a child, who has projected herself, as Sabine, into
the plot. At intermission, one veteran local actor grinned and said "Gotta
love Robert Richmond." And I knew what he meant instantly - Richmond
often re-imagines classics with baroque and flamboyant staging. This
inventiveness sometimes enhances or adds clarity to difficult text; here,
Ludwig's script has already done that, and so the frantic, carnival-like
atmosphere is certainly fascinating, although I'm not sure if it really adds
anything in the long run. In particular, the actors are quite adept with
Casey Kaleba's fight choreography, and I would have enjoyed more
straightforward duel scenes, whereas here they often segue into slapstick
chases accompanied by modern music, in the style of an episode of Scooby Doo
or The Monkees.
Some of that is Ludwig's doing, though, and there's more to it than one realizes. I was prepared to conclude that the cast does fine with some awfully childish material, until I discovered the backstory. Ludwig was commissioned to create this new version of the Dumas classic by the Bristol Old Vic, an offshoot of the Old Vic in London, and it debuted in early December of 2006 as a new adventure play for family audiences. There's a tradition in the UK called pantomine - not silent miming, but rather holiday seasonal entertainment for children and their parents. Components of "panto" often include a new adaptation of a familiar classic, a simple plot, broad physical comedy, anachronistic use of contemporary music, double entendres that only the adults will get, madcap chase scenes, cartoon-like violence and sound effects, and a girl protagonist dressed as a boy. Ludwig's new Three Musketeers incorporates all of those, right down to a pantomime horse (i.e. two actors in a crazy-looking horse costume.) While its run time of more than two and a half hours makes this much more than a children's play, and while it’s not an actual pantomime, it's not bad at all for a stage show aimed at younger audiences. In the program Richmond admits to enjoying the same television and cinematic incarnations of this story that I too enjoyed as a child, and my own first exposure to the Musketeers was via a Classics Illustrated comic book I read during the summer after first grade. As a result, this is that rare show at USC that can genuinely be described as “fun for the whole family.” It’s by no means deep drama, but possibly a great way to introduce youngsters who have overdosed on the Pirates of the Caribbean films to live performance, along with any theatre-phobic adults you may know who have resisted accompanying you to see more serious shows. The Three Musketeers continues through this Saturday, April 25 at Drayton Hall Theatre on the USC campus, with an additional matinee performance Saturday afternoon. For more information, call 803-777-2551, or visit http://www.artsandsciences.sc.edu/thea/three-musketeers-april-17-25-drayton-hall-theatre.
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