Since its first publication in 1844, Alexandre Dumas’ novel “The Three Musketeers” has remained one of literature’s most iconic adventure stories. The title characters – French infantry soldiers Athos, Porthos, Aramis, along with their impressionable young charge d’Artagnan – have been depicted in so many films, TV shows and theater productions over the years that their motto of “all for one, one for all” has entered into the general lexicon.
Playwright Ken Ludwig, an expert in revamping old literary properties, has adapted Dumas’ tale into a fast-paced, family-friendly stage play that premieres Friday at Spokane’s Civic Theatre. The show’s director, William Marlowe, hopes a new audience will be exposed to and inspired by the Musketeers, much like he was at a young age.
“I read it when I was in eighth grade and loved it, and then I read the whole series,” he said of the novel and its two sequels. “And I was d’Artagnan. That’s who I wanted to be. I was terrorizing my mother with a broom and a towel wrapped around my neck for a cape, jumping around on our family room furniture. It really takes me back to that wonderful time in my childhood when I was exposed to these books.”
Marlowe said Ludwig’s adaptation is closer to homage than word-for-word reproduction. There are a few deviations from Dumas’ text – namely the invention of a sister for d’Artagnan, who at one point disguises herself as the servant Planchet, a male character from the novel – but it mostly remains true to the basic essence of the original plot and characters. It’s designed, Marlowe said, to appeal equally to those walking in cold and those who know the book backward and forward.
The production itself has been quite an undertaking: It features a cast of 27 actors, a two-story set, lavish 17th-century costumes (many of which were designed specifically for this show) and a number of elaborate, stylized sword fights.
“We had a combat portion of the auditions to see who had the physical agility and the memory to be able to handle the swordplay,” Marlowe said. The actors will be using stage swords, and mastering the choreography in the fight sequences was a painstaking process. “We do the fights at performance speed, which is plenty fast, so the audience can still see what’s going on,” he said. “At one point you have nine cardinal’s guards versus the Three Musketeers and d’Artagnan. It’s exactly like a dance routine, except you’re using a pointy object.”
Despite the sheer scope of Ludwig’s “Three Musketeers,” Marlowe said the production has thus far run surprisingly smoothly. “It’s been a delightful experience from beginning to end,” he said. “There’s usually a fly in the ointment, but not for this. I can hardly wait for audiences to see it. Folks are going to have a great time.”
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