BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – There are plays, and then there is “The Three Musketeers: An Adventure, With Music.”
Swashbuckling action, at times with eight actors swirling with metallic weaponry gnashing, erupts up close to the audience.
Woven in are songs that tell of thoughts and feelings of men of bravado, of souls wrapped in love, of a king with of a one-note mind – me, me, me.
This is live theater, and exciting stuff.
And comical, too, sometimes with the sensibility of a Disney animated movie only in flesh and blood.
Alexandre Dumas is either rolling in his grave over what shape his 1844 French historical adventure novel has taken or in awe over how his words take life on the outdoor stage of Door Shakespeare.
The piece is directed with playfulness and a mind for fun by Marcella Kearns. In the thick of things is music director and composer Scott McKenna Campbell, playing guitar and singing and enacting the role of Planchet, lackey to the hero.
Glimpse of the story: Young buck D’Artagnan sets out to join the ranks of the roughneck Musketeers and fight for justice against the conniving Cardinal Richelieu, or in this case, do derring-do to bring to the Queen her precious necklace, intact.
The story is kind of silly, and the main perpetrator of silliness in this adaptation is the King. On screen in an animated movie, King Louis would be a voice-over caricature with a quirky voice and a laughable manner surrounding that me, me, me. On stage, it is all of the above delivered with exacting glee by Charles Fraser, master of voicings and mannerisms.
And then there are D’Artagnan (Alex Galick) and the Three Musketeers of Aramis (Alexander Johnson), Athos (Christopher Elst) and Porthos (Dan Klarer). Fused into the four are interplay, quipping and physicality. The bewhiskered and armed Musketeers are striking as action plays out in front of the most striking maple tree/stage piece in all of theater.
Except for a few characters, notably Queen Ann and Cardinal Richelieu, the actors in this company are called on for much more than a “regular” show. They learn choreographed physicality with daggers and rapiers. One actor (Jamey Feshold), tosses in acrobatics. And the actors have to sing. Some play multiple roles.
Prime in the versatility is Carrie Hitchcock. She chiefly portrays Cardinal Richelieu, and the casting doesn’t feel like a gimmick because her performance is so richly filled with nuances of a slick, purposeful, selfish manipulator.
Much of the fascination of the production revolves around D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers. Each is up to some kind of shenanigans. D’Artagnan is a learn-as-you go hero. Aramis is self-righteous about being a monk but elusive about matters of his amour. Athos is a darker soul gripping a secret. Porthos is a guy who loves to drink and eat galore and finds it insulting to be asked/told to pay the hefty bill.
Along with portraying Athos, Christopher Elst is the fight director. His is a case of do as I say and as I do in all the wild and woolly action. He also is the intimacy director for moments in this COVID-conscious time for sometimes creating this: A kiss is not a kiss.
A whole lot of teamwork is at work in this production – more than most because of the risk involvement with all the flashing metal. There is a double edge to the watching – the entertainment of the story and the high-end action. It’s quite the costumed comic caper.
Running time: Two hours, 22 minutes
Remaining performances: To Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. Saturday
Creative: Book – Joe Pine, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas; music and lyrics – Scott McKenna Campbell; director – Marcella Kearns; music director – Scott McKenna Campbell; fight director, intimacy director – Christopher Elst; scenic and properties designer – Jody Sekas; costume designer – Shannon Heibler; production stage manager – Lindy Girman; assistant stage manager – Jamie Alexander; lighting designer – Todd Mion; acting artistic director – Amy Ensign
Planchet – Scott McKenna Campbell
De Treville, D’Artagnan the Elder, Cardinal’s Guard – Mark Corkins
Queen Anne, Hostess – Na’Tosha De’Von
Athos – Christopher Elst
Duke of Buckingham, Innkeeper, Cardinal’s Guard – Jamey Feshold
King Louis, Rochefort – Charles Fraser
D’Artagnan – Alex Galick
Cardinal Richelieu, Landlord – Carrie Hitchcock
Aramis – Alexander Johnson
Porthos – Dan Klarer
Milady De Winter, Cardinal’s Guard – Katherine E. Norman
Cardinal’s Guard, Kitty – Alayna Perry
Constance Bonacieux, Jussac – Christine Saenz
ALSO: “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare, to Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
THE VENUE: The Door Shakespeare theater space is outdoors at Bjorklunden, a 425-acre estate on the shore of Lake Michigan south of Baileys Harbor on the east side of Door County. The performance area is a limestone-lined patch of wood chips beneath a majestic, eye-catching 70-foot maple tree with shaggy bark. For “The Three Musketeers: An Adventure, With Music,” all action surrounds the tree and the raised stage in front of it. The seating configuration accommodates about 160 is on three platforms arcing around the performance space. This site was used in the past by Door Shakespeare; the seating faced the opposite way toward a grove of cedars in recent years. The theater is about a mile of winding road off of Highway 57. Bjorklunden is owned by Lawrence University of Appleton, though Door Shakespeare is a stand-alone entity.