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Davis Shakespeare Festival Features 'Three Musketeers' With Lots Of Swordplay


The Davis Shakespeare Festival is celebrating summer with a fast-paced adventure-comedy with lots of swordplay, “The Three Musketeers," in a recent adaptation by an American playwright. The show features a mind-boggling amount of dueling onstage.

You probably know that Shakespeare didn’t write “The Three Musketeers” – these famous characters were created by the French writer Alexandre Dumas, in the 1840s.

But Shakespeare festivals like to stage this durable tale, because audiences – especially kids – get excited by all the derring-do and swordplay. So Shakespeare fests add a few elements to help “The Three Musketeers” remind you of a Shakespeare comedy. For instance, this show at the Davis Shakespeare Festival adds original live music that sounds nearly Elizabethan, and there’s a bit of courtly dancing as well.

This version of “The Three Musketeers” also inserts a standard character found in several Shakespeare comedies – the plucky young woman who dresses up like a page boy in order to get ahead in a man’s world. Playwright Ken Ludwig has created an eager young girl named Sabine, who is D’Artagnan’s younger sister, and is equally skillful with a sword. But Sabine blows her cover during a fight scene, though her big brother tries to cover it up.

The guys work up a sweat in these fight scenes – and there are something like 20 duels in this show, supported by live music for flute, guitar and percussion. The stirring music gives this play the feel of a swashbuckling Errol Flynn black and white movie. And the baddies resemble villains in a comic book, dressed in outrageous outfits, and gloating sardonically over their complicated schemes to destroy the Musketeers. 

The story moves quickly, and soon, the Musketeers take a shine to young D’Artagnan, who they adopt as a sort of swordsman apprentice. D’Artagnan speaks first in this scene, volunteering to fight with the Musketeers as they try to fend off eight bad guys. The Musketeers approve of D’Artagnan’s bravery.

D’Artagnan: Wait! I believe you gentleman are mistaken. You said there’s three of us. I count four!
Musketeers: Well done! Good lad! Fine boy, I’ve always said so.
D’Artagnan: Alright, you rat-pack cowards! Come and get us! (Swords)

D’Artagnan and the Musketeers are as dashing and affable as matinee idols, and these hunks charm the dickens out of the ladies onstage – and a few girls in the audience as well.

But mostly, this fast-paced adventure comedy puts the emphasis on good humor, and nimble, quick fight choreography. You’ll like the eye-catching, colorful costumes. And before you’re done, you’ll smile as you see the Musketeers raise their blades together and shout this show’s most famous line, “All for One, and One for All.” 

Davis Shakespeare’s production of “The Three Musketeers” continues through Aug. 6 at the Veterans Memorial Theatre in Davis, running in repertory with the musical “Wonderful Town.” 

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Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio 

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