Chivalry is alive and well at the North Shore Music Theatre in the New England premiere of "The Three Musketeers'', a swashbuckling, lustful and intriguing new musical which is a co-production with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.The show is full of some of the best sword fights ever seen on the stage in this new musical adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel and is set in France in 1625. From fast and furious duels to the dangerous streets of Paris by night, "The Three Musketeers'' celebrates honor, romance, friendship and a lust for life. The story focuses on the handsome young D'Artagnan, a country boy determined to be a hero, and his adventures in Paris with Athos, Porthos and Aramis, the hardiest, wittiest and most reckless of the King's Musketeers. Quickly embroiled in romantic affairs,intrigue, evil plots and ferocious duels, he learns that being a hero is more complicated than he thought. The passionate and exhilarating score are by the British composer of "Mary Poppins", Olivier Award winner George Stiles. His fellow Brits include lyricist, Paul Leigh, the author, Paul Raby and the director, Francis Matthews. They take us on an exciting journey to yesteryear with magnificent costumes and sets to enthrall the audience. This breathtaking and superb musical are an excellent display of how friendship conquers all odds and how unity of spirit can overcome all obstacles with comic and tragic moments along the journey. From start to finish this musical will inspire you with its brilliance and you will leave the theatre humming some of this magnificent score. The terrific cast astounds the audience with their outstanding voices, sword fights, dancing and acting to propel it to Broadway in the near future. Bravo on a fantastic original musical masterpiece.
Francis' direction and blocking of this epic adventure is splendid while Dale Rieling's musical direction brings out the lush and gorgeous harmonies of the song with both his topnotch orchestra as well as the cast members. Dennis Callahan is the choreographer and he tackles the large chorus numbers with ease especially "Paris By Night" which sounds like "City on Fire" from "Sweeney Todd" and "Time" which sounds like "Weekend in the Country" from "A Little Night Music". Cast member Bryce Bermingham choreographs the fight sequences perfectly with stunning sword play by the cast. The fabulous sets and costumes are by Lez Brotherston. Leading this multitalented cast is Aaron Tveit as D'Artagnan. Not only is he tall, dark and handsome but he possesses a magnificent tenor voice which soars off the charts in his musical numbers. Aaron sings the lead in ''Riding to Paris" which is about his wanting to become a Musketeer like his father as he rides into Paris on his old yellow horse, Charlemagne, sings in the quartet "Count Me In" where he befriends the three Musketeers with breathtaking harmonies in it, the comic quartet "Ride On" where they ride on wine barrels that go up on stilts to become their horses and in the comic number "A Good Old-Fashioned War" where they go to war with England and recall how much fun war can be. The beautiful duets he sings with his lady love, Constance are "Doing Very Well Without You" and"Who Could Have Dreamed of You" which sounds like "In My Life" from Les Miz. Aaron not only hits pay dirt in his comic bits but he also tugs your heartstrings at the death of Constance and his final acceptance into being a Musketeer and his realization at what being a hero is all about. His sword play is astounding, too. Bravo on a job extremely well done.
The actors who play the Three Musketeers are fantastic, too. John Schiappa plays Athos whose secret past influences the events of the present. Athos reveals his secrets to D'Artagnan in "Take a Little Wine", a show stopping song. The comic musketeer, Porthos is played by Jimmy Smagula. He reminds you of Sancho from "Man of La Mancha" while Aramis, the musketeer who studied to be priest is played by Kevyn Morrow. Their majestic voices are heard throughout the show in "The Life of a Musketeer", "The Challenges", where D'Artagnan is supposed to duel with each musketeer, "Count Me In", "Ride On" and "Pour La France". The evil Milady Winter is played by Kate Baldwin. Her throaty line delivery is reminiscent of Tammy Grimes or Kathleen Turner while her voice is beautiful to listen to. Her portrayal as this murderous woman is excellent and she sings "Paris By Night", "Gentleman" where she expresses her hatred of men, "Lilacs" where she wishes she could enjoy being in love again (These two numbers sound like Lucy's numbers from "Jekyl and Hyde") and "Beyond These Walls" where she poisons Constance. Milady's death scene is splendid where she dies like Juliet but unlike her, she is an unrepentant bitch to the bitter end. The heroine, Constance is wonderfully played by Jenny Fellner. She stands up to the arrogant men around, only to fall in love with D'Artagnan. Jenny stops the show with her rendition of "Any Day" where she waits to be rescued by the man she loves. She also has gorgeous duets with Aaron with their voices blending beautifully together in them. Playing D'Artagnan's servant, Planchet is Steven Booth. His tenor voice soars in "A Good Old-Fashioned War" and his comic behavior brings levity to the show. Kingsley Leggs plays Treville who is in charge of the musketeers as well as D'Artagnan's father while Mick Bleyer and Jeff Edgarton play two of the show's other villains Rochefort and Bonacieux who work for Cardinal Richelieu. (surprisingly in this version the Cardinal has very little to do.) Heather Koren as Queen Anne gets to sing "Any Day" with Jenny in the first act as the Queen waits to meet her lover, the Duke of Buckingham played by Nick Dalton. So for a trip back to the fabulous tale of the three Musketeer and D'Artagnan, be sure to catch this show before it heads to Broadway. Hurry to buy tickets for its three week stay in Beverly, MA. Tell them Tony sent you.