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Catharine Kay (Sabine) and Jeff Sundheim (d'Artagnan) are featured in Flat Rock Playhouse's 'The Three Musketeers.' / JAMES JOHNSON

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Flat Rock offers a swashbuckling, family-friendly 'Three Musketeers'

By Paul Hyde
For The Greenville News

Flat Rock Playhouse’s “The Three Musketeers” may chart new theatrical territory.


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Call it a swashbuckling farce.

The classic 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas has been adapted for the stage by funnyman Ken Ludwig, the comic mind behind some of the most popular American stage farces of the last few decades, such as “Lend Me a Tenor.”

Ludwig updated the language and added new one-liners to this family friendly “Three Musketeers,” which runs through Nov. 24 on the Playhouse’s Mainstage.

But the basic story remains of the valiant d’Artagnan and his musketeer comrades fighting for justice.

“It’s a blast, a real adventure,” said director Lisa K. Bryant. “It’s all about honor, romance, love and danger, and the sword fighting is really exciting.”

Set in 1625, the story begins with d’Artagnan setting off for Paris in search of adventure. D’Artagnan’s sister, Sabine, a new character invented by Ludwig, accompanies the young man and quickly becomes entangled in her brother’s escapades.

D’Artagnan joins with the famous three musketeers of the title — Athos, Porthos and Aramis — to defend the honor of the queen of France, engaging in pitched battle with Cardinal Richelieu and his henchmen.

“It’s got all the elements of a good story: good guys, bad guys and good overcoming evil,” said Bryant, who also serves as the associate artistic director of Flat Rock Playhouse.

While embracing the picaresque nature of the Dumas novel, the playwright Ludwig boosts its comic appeal, Bryant said.

“Ken Ludwig is famous for his farces and broad comedy, and this piece is definitely in that same vein,” Bryant said. “The script has a lot of zingers. It’s paced like a farce, flying from one location and scenario to the next.”

The play has considerable musical underscoring as well, giving it a “cinematic” quality, Bryant said.

Swordplay, as might be expected, figures heavily in the production, which features a cast of 23.

“It’s ‘The Three Musketeers,’ after all, and ‘The Three Musketeers’ without sword fights is like a day without sunshine,” said fight choreographer Michael MacCauley.

“The fights are pretty effective,” added MacCauley, a veteran actor with Flat Rock who’s playing Athos in the staging. “The play is very funny, fast-paced and family oriented.”

A total of 17 fight sequences occur on stage, 14 of them involving swords and acrobatic derring-do, he said.

“We have some fights on a big flight of stairs right in the middle of the set,” MacCauley said.

Added Bryant, “Michael and the cast have done an amazing job. The sword fights are really quite stunning and detailed. They’re not simple fights. They involve a lot of choreography. I think people will be thrilled.”

The multiple sword fights require careful rehearsal and daily brush-ups, MacCauley said.

“With sword fighting, you want it to be second nature,” he said. “We want it to be as if it’s a choreographed dance.”

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