Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Theater Review: The Three Musketeers

By Philip Doyle

A swashbuckling romantic adventure, I would argue that the live stage is the best way to present The Three Musketeers. And I can’t think of anyone better suited to the challenge than The Denver Center Theatre Company.

This is the story that exemplifies the bond of friendship that is forged by standing side-by-side, bravely defending the noble principles of dignity and honor.  Alexandre Dumas’ widely popular novels were released serially in 1844, and his stories seem to be as relevant as ever.

The Musketeers have been represented in every conceivable format for decades.  Novels, radio shows, countless movies (and sequels), television, and even comic books.  Usually, these are a bastardization of Dumas’ most popular work.  Watered down versions, hastily produced to sell children’s toys and collectible knickknacks.  Film versions have been blessed with the likes of Douglass Fairbanks; while other versions seem cursed with the celebrity de jour, (Charlie Sheen springs to mind. Ugh).

Adapted by Linda Alper, Douglas Langworth, and Penny Metropulos, this incarnation of The Three Musketeers retains the flamboyant charm of the heroic swordsmen, and includes layers of political intrigue, sexual maneuvering, and unwavering camaraderie.  Director Art Manke has staged and choreographed a production that will appeal to your fanciful sense of romantic adventure.

Initially, The Three Musketeers is a familiar adventure.  The young and impetuous D’Artagnan wants to join the King’s Musketeers.  D’Artagnan joins forces with Athos, Aramis and Porthos, and together they defend the honor of the King, Louis the Just, and his Queen, Anne of Austria.  Along the way, D’Artagnan discovers love, loss, and the virtues of becoming a man.

There are raucous drunken brawls, charming sexual flirtations, battles of wit, and sword fights aplenty.  There is the foppish King, who is easily influenced by his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu.  Acts of evil are disguised and masqueraded under a veil of religious righteousness.  Hmm, that is still going on today.  Touché, Monsieur Dumas. Touché.

It’s the production power that gives The Three Musketeers integrity.  What could be a drab and predictable story is lifted high by outstanding technical design and support, which seems second nature to the Denver Center.

Dazzling costume design by B. Modern.  Light and sound that saturates the stage with wonderful energy.  Competent fight direction and staging that swiftly moves a large and talented cast from one scene to the next.  This is top-notch theatre production.

As the audience enters The Stage Theatre, they are welcomed by an exquisite visual prologue to the play.  The gorgeous set, designed by Tom Buderwitz, immediately engages the audience.  With multiple levels, stairways, gates, nooks and crannies, that presents all sorts of dynamic possibilities of the adventure to come.

All of the elements join together, breathing new life to a familiar classic.  The Three Musketeers shines because of competent direction and choreography, the skill of gifted actors, and a profound level of technical design and craftsmanship.  All for one, and one for all.

The Denver Center Theatre Company presents The Three Musketeers through October 21, 2012.
For tickets call 303-893-4100 or visit www.denvercenter.org.