“Courage is more than just arms and legs. It takes courage to be yourself,” Hector Montoto, a senior Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) musical theatre major who played the role of Father, said in the opening scene of “Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers.”
With dazzling sword fights and hilarious banter, UM’s production of “Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers” was mesmerizing from start to finish. Clean choreography and immersive staging take the audience back in time to experience an emotional story of bravery, love and friendship.
“Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers” adapts Alexandre Dumas’ story of heroic bravery for the stage. The play follows D’Artagnan, a young man who sets off for Paris in hopes of joining the King’s valiant Musketeers. However, Cardinal Richelieu has different plans. Fighting beside his new friends —Athos, Porthos and Aramis — D’Artagnan saves the King and Queen from peril.
The play originally premiered in 2006 at Bristol Old Vic, the oldest continuously working theater in the English speaking world. This adaptation included one minor adjustment with the addition of Sabine, D’Artagnan’s younger sister who poses as a boy and joins her brother on his adventures.
Dumas is known for his quintessential blend of heroics, romance and comedy and this on stage adaptation does not disappoint.
“I hope this production helps everyone remember what it was like not to see the world for what it is, but for what it could be with a little imagination, a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of encouragement,” theatre arts professor Burton Tedesco said in his director’s note.
While all actors delivered excellent performances, some stood out among the rest. Junior BFA musical theatre major Michael Stafford powerfully portrayed D’Artagnan’s character growth throughout the play. With swift movements and strong line delivery, the audience was able to experience and watch courage rise within him.
By his side was the effortlessly hilarious Dominique Karanfillian, a junior BFA musical theatre major, portraying Sabine. From her first entrance to her final bow, Karanfillian’s effective choices stole the spotlight with every line.
Making up two parts of the musketeer trio, junior BFA musical theatre majors Davis Parks (Porthos) and Christian Lane Miller (Aramis) showcased their impressive abilities to captivate an audience with humor and skill.
Junior BFA musical theatre major Eleanor J. Parks completed the fearless trio with her unique portrayal of Athos. Parks was given the opportunity to originate the role as a woman.
“Being able to show such strength, advanced fight choreography and leadership as a female was very fulfilling and exciting,” Parks said. “I am so thankful Burton trusted me with this role and [I] cannot wait for more people to experience this artistic masterpiece.”
The cast as a whole is to be commended for their incredible contribution to the production. From junior BFA musical theatre major Kyle Hendricks’ hilarious portrayal of King Louis to junior BFA musical theatre major Kishan Rao’s daunting interpretation of Rochefort, the supporting actors amplified the quality of the performance.
A particular element of this show that deserves great emphasis is the swordfighting. In UM’s BFA musical theatre curriculum, students are required to take a stage combat course. It was in this course that most of the cast learned basic fight choreography, including the rapier and dagger technique shown in play.
Playing to the historical accuracy of the production, the sword fighting scenes were mesmerizingly skillful. At some points, more than 10 actors filled the stage dueling one another, each with a real metal sword in hand.
From seamless transitions to a unique soundtrack, the technical elements of the production worked together flawlessly. Costume designer Michiko Kitayama Skinner was inspired by the historical accuracy of the time period, but wanted to bring in modern characteristics in hopes of further engaging a contemporary audience.
In order to emphasize this distinction, the musketeers wore more simplistic modern clothing like shirts and pants, while the garments of the king and queen remained exaggeratingly luxurious.
These modern instances stretched beyond the costumes and through elements such as diction and music. It is sometimes difficult to understand historical pieces simply due to the language. This production did just the opposite — each actor delivered lines in a way audiences could comprehend while holding onto the historical grammar.
As soon as you entered the theater, the audience was immersed into the sounds of modern rock music. Most prominently heard when King Louis played his chilling chess matches, this soundtrack impressively contrasted and cracked the serious composure tied to the 17th century.
No production process is without its setbacks. Because of two hurricanes, a few rehearsals were moved to Zoom and opening night was pushed to Nov. 11. Through it all, the cast and crew of “Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers” persevered and continued to bring an empowering show to all of its audiences.
If you missed this production, check out the Ring Theatre website for more information on the 2023 spring season, including “The Rover” playing from March 1-10 and “Lucky Stiff” from April 20-29.