Dan Hodge as King Louis XIII. Photo by Lee A. Butz


Review: 'Three Musketeers' a rollicking, fun adventure at PSF

Jodi Duckett, Contact Reporter
The Morning Call

"The Three Musketeers,” on stage at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, is a hoot pretty much from beginning to the end.

(L to R) Ian Merrill Peakes as Athos, Alexander Sovronsky as Aramis, Sean Patrick Higgins as D'Artagnan, Zach Robidas as Porthos.

This new adaptation of the 17th century classic by Tony-winning playwright Ken Ludwig features a heavy dose of contemporary humor and slapstick, served up perfectly by the exceptional cast.

Funny moments such as the cast breaking into a Michael Jackson dance scene at the ball bring nonstop laughs.

But this is also a show with a lot of heart as it tells a tale about adventure, romance, following your passion and doing the right thing. And it’s a show with a lot of action, including a lot of swordplay.

The story goes: D’Artagnan, a young rural Frenchman, wants to go to Paris and become a musketeer to help defend the king. He heads off with his sister — a new character named Sabine — who is supposed to attend a convent school. Upon arrival, D’Artagnan, who’s a little green, gets in one jam after another until he earns the friendship of the Musketeers (and even after). The story includes a power struggle between a corrupt Cardinal and a bumbling King, an unfaithful queen, a first love for D’Artagnan and the search for a priceless necklace.

The laughs start before the show even starts when the Three Musketeers run down the aisles to the stage to provide a hilarious curtain talk that reveals the chemistry between them — Porthos, played by Zach Robidas; Aramis, played by Alexander Sovronksy, and Athos, played by Ian Merrill Peakes.

The show then opens with a sword fight, and through the first act, almost each scene begins with sword play, sometimes accompanied by music that turns the action into a dance. It feels like the fights, beautifully choreographed by Christian Kelly-Sordelet, the son of director Rick Sordelet, are a character in themselves.

As D’Artagnan, Sean Patrick Higgins is a delight. He has a strong, clear voice and plays his role with the right combination of innocence, confidence, sweetness, righteousness, strength and self-deprecation. He’s easy to fall in love with as he follows his father’s advice to fight for justice and live a life of honor.

The Musketeers have chemistry akin to the Three Stooges. They are not that silly, but they are that in tune with each other. Their word play is as natural as their sword play is skilled.

As Sabine, Stephanie Hodge is all chirpy and bouncy, a lovable dynamo with a strong will and a sweet heart.

As Cardinal Richelieu, Paul Kiernan is the right amount of sarcastic and slimy. He and his sidekick Milady, played by Stella Baker, are very good at being bad.

Dan Hodge as King Louis XIII is a royal crackup. He’s whiny, a little insecure and a little psycho, and he just can’t seem to spit his words out. But somehow he is likable.

The supporting cast has it all together as well, adding memorable comic elements.

There’s no orchestra, but music is added through some onstage instrument playing and singing by the cast, including one fantastic bar scene in which the main characters all play instruments. In other scenes, Sabine is adorable as she plays ukulele, and Aramis also shows off skill on the ukulele with a very good voice.

The second act gets serious for a little while, revealing more acting depth, especially from D’Artagnan, who literally quivers with sadness at one point, and Athos, who delivers a monologue about the life event/love that shaped him.

The set, designed by Brian Sidney Bembridge, is basic and functional, a two-story metal and wood contraption that shape shifts to suit the scene. I really liked the fake sculpted hedges that arrives atop wooden platforms to turn the stage into the royal garden where a game of chess is played with oversized pieces. And it is amazing how three chandeliers lowered from the ceiling can turn an otherwise unadorned stage into a ballroom.

Finally, kudos to costume designer Samantha Fleming for dress that is properly 17th century, with the royals in fancy dresses and frilly shirts and blazers and the Musketeers dapper in their swashbuckling outfits and thigh-high boots.

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