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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers
Do you have seconds? — Athos
No. I have all the time in the world.
— D'Artagnon
Cooper Jennings and company( Photo credit: Jerry Dalia )
Ken Ludwig has done it again . . . or let's say that he keeps trying to do it again; that is to repeat the well-deserved success he had with his hugely popular farce Lend Me A Tenor and to a lesser extent with the impressive comedic farces he has written subsequently in virtually the same style and manner.

Ludwig's version of The Three Musketeers makes no apologies for the number of groans that compete with the number of guffaws that are likely to be the response to his adaptation of Alexandre Dumas'1844 adventurous novel about French royals and rogues. Unfortunately, the romantic intrigues embedded in the novel are close to being obliterated in this version. To the rescue is frequent and robustly executed sword-play awarded it under the direction of Rick Sordelet, with additional assist from his son fight director Christopher Kelly-Sordelet.

A lauded master director of fight and combat over decades, Sordelet cannot be faulted for seeking and finding a suitable story for his considerable talent. If the style and flavor of the novel is purposefully being tested by Ludwig, it also joins other quasi faithful versions. In that vein, only the lavish all-star tongue-in-cheek filming in 1948 (notably with Gene Kelly and Lana Turner) took a commendably light-hearted approach to the novel and without being outright silly.

Mocking a classic is not exactly the same as making a mockery of a classic and the latter is what we have here. At the performance I saw, the well-choreographed swordplay was still in its early stages of proficiency. Conversely, most of the actors were consigned to mugging. However, they exited and entered with exaggerated panache through the many 17th century evoked portals provided by set designer Brian Prather and in period-splendid costumes designed by Brian Russman.

As you may surmise, I am not disposed to writing favorably about this production except for this observation: It appears that the actor originally cast to play the role of Sabine, D'Artagnon's sister (a character created for this adaptation) was injured just before the first preview. In minutes, Courtney McGowan took over the role with a charm and a singularly notable esprit de corps that nearly saved the play. Perhaps because she didn't have the rehearsal time of the other cast members, she avoided the superficial posturing and posing that was presumably done in the name of farce.

The plot revolves around the adventuring D'Artagnon (Cooper Jennings) who sets off for Paris to join the King's musketeers, but now with his sister Sabine in tow. His intentions are to drop her off at a convent for schooling. A series of misadventures mostly of a comical nature are in store for this sword-bearing young man and woman. There is some fun in D'Artagnon's continuing en-guard confrontations with Cardinal Richelieu's (Bruce Cromer) guards - the one-eyed Captain Rochefort (Jeffrey M. Bender) and his side-kick Ravanche (Patrick Toon.) Soon enough he finds himself facing a duel with each of the title characters Athos (John Keebler), Porthos (Paul Molnar) and Aramis (Alexander Sovronsky).

They all become involved with the whereabouts of the Queen's diamond necklace as D'Artagnon also becomes enamored of the Queen's servant Constance (Billie Wyatt), while avoiding the machinations of Richelieu, Queen Anne (Fiona Robberson) and King Louis (Michael Stewart Allen.)

If this staging mainly misfires from the slack timing of the action, it is sure to improve with time. But I wonder if that be enough?





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PRODUCTION NOTES
Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas Directed by Rick Sordelet
Cast: Michael Steward Allen (King Louis XIII, Cardinal's guard), Jeffrey M. Bender (Rochefort), Clark Scott Carmichael (Duke of Buckingham, Inn Keeper), Lena Chilingerian (D'Artagnon's Mother, Adele, Abbess/Assassin), Bruce Cromer (Cardinal Richelieu), David DeBesse (D'Artagnon's Father/Treville), Cooper Jennings (D'Artagnon), John Keabler (Athos), Conner Keef (Septime/Cardinal's Guard), Anastasia Le Gendre (Milady), Austin Lucas (Fache/Cardinal's Guard), Nick Meittinis (Stanley/Cardinal's Guard), Paul Molnar (Porthos) Courtney McGowan (Sabine), Alexis Pudvan (Queen's Attendant/Mother Superior), Felicia Reuter (Elise/Nun), Fiona Robberson (Queen Anne), Alexander Sovronsky (Aramis), Patrick Toon (Ravanche), Billie Wyatt (Constance)
Scenic Designer: Brain Prather
Lighting Designer: Matthew E. Adelson
Costume Designer: Brian Russman
Fight Director: Christian Kelly-Sordelet
Original Music and Sound Designer: Alexander Sovronsky
Production Stage Manager: Jackie Mariani
Running Time: 2 hours 25 minutes including intermission
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, located on the Campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, N.J.
Performances: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays at 7:30 pm; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm; Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.
From: 06/12/19 Opened 06/15/19 Ends 07/02/19
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 06/15/19


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