The Three Musketeers at The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ is a sheer delight
There have been many times I’ve had fun at the theatre, but rarely have I experienced an evening of sheer delight like I had seeing Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers. Mr. Ludwig has turned his prodigious talents at adaptation to Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel of daring and intrigue, and the results are more than satisfying. I am thankful that the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison has seen fit to open its new season with it. It is hilarious, it is romantic, it has swashbuckling adventure galore. It is unreal and wonderful and captivating. Why beat around the bush? Just go, already!
The familiar story follows the adventures of young D’Artagnan (Cooper Jennings) as he makes his way to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers. He is also charged with delivering his sister Sabine (Courtney McGowan), no slouch with a sword herself, to a convent school in the city. Once in the city, the young man runs afoul of the one-eyed Rochefort (Jeffrey M. Bender), captain of the Cardinal’s Guards, and his henchman Ravanche (Patrick Toon). By accident D’Artagnan also schedules three consecutive duels with Athos (John Keabler), Porthos (Paul Molnar), and Aramis (Alexander Sovronsky), the three Musketeers of the title. In coming to the aid of Constance (Billie Wyatt), servant of Queen Anne (Fiona Robberson), D’Artagnan arouses the suspicions of Cardinal Richelieu (Bruce Cromer) and his henchwoman Milady (Anastasia Le Gendre). An intrigue involving Queen Anne, the Duke of Buckingham (Clark Scott Carmichael), King Louis XIII (Michael Stewart Allen), and a diamond necklace set off a massive race against time to preserve the Queen’s honor and foil the Cardinal’s desire for more political power.
Director Rick Sordelet keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace while not rushing any of the humor or drama in the story. In this he is given outstanding support by his son, fight director Christopher Kelly-Sordelet, handling both personal duels and large group melees with panache. The world of Dumas’ Musketeers is brought to life by the Shakespeare Theatre’s fine production staff: scenic designer Brian Prather, lighting designer Matthew E. Adelson, and costume designer Brian Russman. Actor Alexander Sovronsky, who plays Aramis, successfully takes on the tasks of sound designer and composer of the show’s original music.
The 20-member cast—a large one for the Shakespeare Theatre, with many performing multiple roles—is one of the best ever assembled for a production here. The acting was at the usual standards of the Shakespeare Theatre, from the leads down to the ensemble. Particular notice goes to Courtney McGowan as Sabine, a new character created by Ken Ludwig for this adaptation. At the first preview, the actress already cast in the part suffered a fractured ankle and had to leave. Ms. McGowan stepped into the role and with only three days of rehearsal and previews gave a magnificent opening night performance as D’Artagnan’s feisty sister.
There have been rare times when I have said that a production is so good you should hock your grandmother to buy tickets. The Three Musketeers is such a delight that you should hock both your grandmothers to see it. The only bad thing about this production is that it will only be playing until July 7, 2019 due to the Shakespeare Theatre’s production schedule. At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say it again: Go, NOW, to see Ken Ludwig’s excellent stage adaptation of The Three Musketeers before it has to close!
The Three Musketeers is presented by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Drew University in Madison through July 7, 2019. For tickets and information, visit shakespearenj.org.