Review: All for Frolic and Bold Adventure with ‘The Three Musketeers’ at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival!

Rochefort (John Keabler) and Milday (Stella Baker) in “The Three Musketeers”. Photo by Lee A. Butz

By Lisa Panzer

Ready for an all out rousing adventure with the dangerous, debonair Musketeers?  There is something for everyone is this swift-paced, thoroughly enjoyable, swashbuckling tale of gallantry, amour and intrigue. Ken Ludwig’s thrilling adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, masterfully directed by Rick Sordelet, sparkles with wit and fun surprises. Deftly timed quips and clever physical comedy intersperse among brilliantly staged clanging of swords, swearing of oaths, and sinister schemes, while romance of various blooms flourish, and fade, amidst this poignant classic drama. Brian Sidney Bembridge’s scintillating flexile set design reflects the theme of the Queens’s diamonds, a gift from the King, which she has given to the Duke of Buckingham (Mike Rossmy) as a token of affection.  The jewels must be returned in time to display upon her royal neck for the King’s party, so as to avert Cardinal Richelieu’s (Paul Kiernan) cunning plans to ruin her marriage to the King in order to strengthen his own violent agenda. Young D’Artagnan (Sean Patrick Higgins), eager to prove his worth and to thwart injustice, undertakes an impossible mission to retrieve the diamonds before the Queen’s honor is compromised, and France falls prey to holy havoc. His sister Sabine (Stephanie Hodge) equally eager to make her mark, joins him in his journey to fight for what is right, rendering her heart and her sword in service of society.  Brother and sister ultimately band with the brave and boisterous trio of Athos (Ian Merrill Peakes), Porthos (Zack Robidas), and Aramis (Alexander Sovronsky), the original Three Musketeers, against all odds in courageously safeguarding Queen and country.

Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers is loaded with all out action including sword fights galore, hilarious hijinks, capricious capers, tension and camp – even the set is kinetic – all of which, in tandem with a top-notch cast, work to enliven and energize a great story.  Evil-doers Richelieu and his henchwoman, Milady are well rounded and granted depth by Paul Kiernan and Stella Baker, respectively, while Queen Anne of Austria is regal, yet fallable and lovable as portrayed by Marnie Schulenburg, and Dan Hodge rules as dandy King Louis XIII, who may strut like a peacock, yet can also sting like a hornet. Kelsey Rainwater exudes sweetness and honesty as Constance Bonacieux, the Queen’s maid and beloved of D’Artagnan, in contrast to seductress Milady and the Cardinal’s abettor, Rochefort who is imbued with a marvelously mean ambience by John Keabler. Esau Pritchett’s voice and comportment lend strength and stateliness to the role of Treville and Mike Rossmy accords a touch of stoicism to Buckingham.  It is nice to notice that ensemble members Michael Covel, Austin Lucas, Dane McMichael, Ilia Paulino (whose laughter is contagious particularly in one scene where she is being serenaded), Andrew T. Scoggin and Victoria Scovens, each get a little spotlight in the show.  Higgins plays D’Artagnan with stormy youthful sincerity and Stephanie Hodge brings to the fore both Sabine’s swagger and sword skills along with her guileless charm and worldy wonder. Peakes’ detailed Athos is seasoned and knowing with killer instincts, except in love. Robidas endows Porthos with playful pomp and rapier wit, and Alexander Sovronsky not only gives a fabulous performance as Aramis, but also as Music Director, Composer and Sound Designer!

Lighting, designed by Masha Tsimring is attuned to sound and flows with mood and action. Costume Designer Samantha Fleming’s gorgeous period apparel is resplendent under Tsimring’s lighting and Bembridge’s intricate, lively set. Staging boasts constant momentum, scene changes blend into action – nary a dull moment, especially the fight sequences, directed by Christian Kelly-Sordelet, which are like watching lighting shows within the show, each fight having it’s own dynamism, rigor and fierce beauty.

Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is a gloriously regaling theatrical experience with an edge of danger, a twist of happenstance, a touch of humor and a hint of hopefullness that is bound to delight.

Remaining performances through August 8th at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley, PA, (610) 282-WILL or visit pashakespeare.org