What looks like promising (and appealingly public domain) source material for a grand family-friendly musical comes up short on the creative end — again. It’s going to take more than the extra money enhancing this sumptuous revamping of last year’s Chicago production of “The Three Musketeers” to make this show work. A less-generic score would be a good place to start, along with a theatrical re-conceiving of the material and the addition of some much needed fun.
Instead this recast production with new helmer, choreographer and designers gets tons of earnestness that may be faithful to the Alexandre Dumas novel but results in a rather dull, needlessly intricate and uninspired production. And who really remembers the court-intrigue plot of the novel anyway? It’s the swordplay, the dash and the dare from the many less-than-literal film adaptations that we fondly — if somewhat dimly — recall and want to see come alive on stage.
Given that “Musketeers” has seen previous stage incarnations in a pre-Chicago version performed at the American Musical Theater in San Jose, Calif., in 2001 and a university production in 1999, one wonders if it isn’t time to hang up the swords on this one.
The material calls for the kind of imaginative sweep one associates with these bold, swashbuckling heroes, but instead the script gets mired in royal politics. Most audiences will never really understand what’s at stake with the young hero and his soldier idols — or won’t care.
The production isn’t lacking in design values, especially Lez Brotherston’s lavish costumes and set, which make the theater’s troublesome in-the-round space rustically handsome and properly period. Hugh Vanstone also does wonders with his atmospheric lighting that duplicates the shadowy world in France. Kudos too to Bryce Bermingham’s fight direction and cutlery expertise.
Songs by George Stiles and Paul Leigh have the right feel but not the fire of greatness. Sadly, there’s not much fun to be had in the big musical numbers.
The ballads are better in a faux-“Les Miz” sort of way. But one gathers this is the musical template to which the entire production aspires — and misses. Dennis Callahan’s choreography is more a matter of crowd control.
The largely recast perfs are up to — and in many case, far superior to — the material.
Aaron Tveit, who made a strong impression in this summer’s “Calvin Berger,” continues to show his range and express his tenor as the charmingly boyish D’Artagnan. Kevyn Morrow, Jimmy Smagula and especially John Schiappa are fine as the musketeers, although one waits in vain to be swept up into their regiment.
Creating a much stronger impression are Kate Baldwin’s wonderfully sinister Milady and Jenny Fellner’s less-than-virginal Constance. But, it’s not a good sign when the women in “The Three Musketeers” are more interesting than the men.