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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Three Musketeers
Southwest Shakespeare Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Meet Me in St. Louis and The Addams Family

Spencer Dooley, Keath Hall, Aaron Blanco,
Shelby Daeffler, and Andy Cahoon

Photo by Patrick Walsh
Alexandre Dumas' classic 1844 action tale "The Three Musketeers got a slightly comical update in the 2004 stage adaptation from playwright Ken Ludwig. Southwest Shakespeare Company fills the stage of the Mesa Arts Center with exceptional, non-stop swordplay, and their talented cast create rich and identifiable roles in this fun and frilly production.

The plot, like the book, follows young country boy D'Artagnan who journeys to Paris with the hope of joining the elite group of musketeers who are loyal to King Louis XIII. However, as soon as he arrives he has run-ins with the three most notorious Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and sets up times to duel with each of them. Fortunately, the three men turn out to be a most forgiving group and before you know it, D'Artagnan and the trio are off on a mission to stop the evil Cardinal Richelieu and the wicked Milady from overturning King Louis and his wife Queen Anne.

Ludwig is well known for his hilarious scripts for the Tony Award winning musical Crazy for You and his Tony-nominated Lend Me a Tenor. While audiences familiar with those shows may be expecting his Three Musketeers to reach the same heights of comic hilarity those two popular shows achieved, he strangely keeps most of the humor at a minimum and follows Dumas' action-themed story fairly closely, though with some nice added characters and touches. The best addition he makes is to add a sister for D'Artagnan, a feisty tomboy who is also a gifted swordswoman and factors nicely into the plot.

Director Jesse James Kamps has assembled a cast who throw themselves into their roles with a gleeful passion. Kamps doesn't add any unnecessary comical bits and he keeps the action-centric plot fairly focused. As D'Artagnan, Andy Cahoon is a charming, eager and ambitious lad with wide eyes full of excitement when he realizes his luck of encountering the famous musketeers. Spencer Dooley, Keath Hall, and Aaron Blanco form a fun, frolicking and fearsome trio of friends who just happen to also be the famous musketeers. Blanco also choreographed the exceptional fight sequences which are varied, robust, and well executed by the large cast.

Alexis Baigue and Emily Mohney are having a blast as the evil and devilish duo of Richelieu and Milady de Winter. As D'Artagnan's sister Sabine, Shelby Daeffler is plucky and just as eager as Cahoon. Joseph Cullen is a riot as the foppish Louis XIII, and Katherine Stewart is appropriately elegant as Queen Anne. Melody Knudson adds some nice layers of urgency and passion to Constance, the Queen's assistant who falls for D'Artagnan.

Tiana Torrilhon's large set includes some lovely stone arches and curved steps that are beautifully lit by Daniel Davisson to evoke the different times of day and locations in the plot. I just wish that some of the large static set had elements that moved, such as having the stairs change position to form a different stage image, which would better transform into the numerous locations in the plot. The costumes by Jessica Florez are superb and include various fabrics with touches of velvet and embroidery. Her costumes for Louis XIII are colorful, fun and incredibly creative. Christi Lindsay's wig designs include some fairly elaborate creations, though the wig Cahoon sports as D'Artagnan looks a bit too unkempt. Peter Bish's crisp sound design includes some nice sound effects as well as a fairly good musical underscore for the fight sequences.

Full of courage, bravery and plenty of swashbuckling vigor, The Three Musketeers isn't quite as broadly comical as Ludwig's other plays, which could prove a bit of a disappointment for any fans of his more famous farces. However, with a passionate cast, sumptuous creative elements, and some stunning fight choreography, Southwest Shakespeare's production makes for a highly entertaining and incredibly fun adventure.

The Three Musketeers runs through October 29th, 2017, with performances at the Farnsworth Studio at the Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street in Mesa, AZ. Tickets can be purchased at swshakespeare.orgor by calling 480-644-6500

Director: Jesse James Kamps
Scenic Designer: Tiana Torrilhon
Production Stage Manager: Kate Weir
Costume Designer: Jessica Florez
Lighting Designer: Daniel Davisson
Hair and Make-Up Designer: Christi Lindsay
Properties Designers: Stacey Walston
Sound Designer: Peter Bish
Fight Choreographer: Aaron Blanco

D'Artagnan: Andy Cahoon
Athos: Spencer Dooley
Porthos: Keath Hall
Aramis: Aaron Blanco
Cardinal Richelieu: Alexis Baigue
Sabine: Shelby Daeffler
Milady de Winter: Emily Mohney
Constance: Melody Knudson
Louis XIII/ Dartagnan's Father/Fouquet/Innkeeper: Joseph Cullen
Queen Anne/Adele: Katherine Stewart
Treville /Buckingham/ Ranache / DeBris /Fache: Cody Goulder
Rochefort: Shaphan David Seiders
Mother Superior, DArtagnan's Mother/The Abess/Wench/Ensemble: Megan Lindsey
Elise/Sister/Stanley/Wench/Servant/Ensemble: Jamie Hendricks
Cardinal Guard/ Basille: Felix Abidore
Cardinal Guard/Ensemble: Sasha Wilson

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