‘The Three Musketeers’ at Encore Stage & Studio

Encore Stage & Studio presents The Three Musketeers, adapted for the stage and composed by Matthew Heap, with direction by Susan Alison Keady. A large number of young actors (over 25 total!) make up the ensemble, and I always welcome an opportunity for children to see peers their own age perform onstage.

(l to r) Aramis (Brody Karton), Porthos (Colin Meek), Athos (Zach Longsworth) and D'Artagnan (Christopher Wagner). Photo by Aileen Pangan.
(l to r) Aramis (Brody Karton), Porthos (Colin Meek), Athos (Zach Longsworth), and D’Artagnan (Christopher Wagner). Photo by Aileen Pangan.

Technical Director and Set Designer Kristen Jepperson is ambitious with her sets, including a stone prison cell, a bustling town square, and the posh royal bedchambers of a Cardinal. Master Electrician and Lighting Designer Gary Hauptman lights the settings appropriately, including dreary darkened shadows for the prison and bright sunshine for the countryside, but there were a couple of awkward sound cues during my performance that jumped the gun and interrupted the dialogue. I enjoyed the costumes designed by Debra Leonard; the musketeers looked regal in their feather-capped Cavalier hats, fleur-de-lis crested tabards, and wooden rapiers tucked into the belt of their dueling pants.

In 17th-century France, an older D’Artagnan (Kristopher Heaton) is attempting to delay his execution and buy time for his rescuers by regaling his guards with an “untold” story of the Three Musketeers. In it, a young D’Artagnan (Christopher Wagner) teams up with his friends, the famous Musketeers: Athos (Zach Longsworth), Porthos (Colin Meek), and Aramis (Brody Karton) for a roam around the countryside. When the Cardinal (Brain Mecalf) approaches them with a mission, they are happy to accept…until they realize that the deceitful Cardinal was using them as pawns to start a war! With the help of three brave young ladies and some loyal townsfolk, the quartet must undo the plot that they’ve been caught in before it’s too late!

Cardinal Richelieu (Brian Metcalf) and Milady de Winter (Maggie Keane).  Photo by Larry McClemons.
Cardinal Richelieu (Brian Metcalf) and Milady de Winter (Maggie Keane). Photo by Larry McClemons.

What one needs to remember is that the actors in this production are young and just beginning to learn their craft– so yes, there were some delayed lines, and the performances could stand to be polished up. However, the kids showed great overall teamwork and delivered steady performances, which I attribute to solid, encouraging direction. Fight Director Megan Behm did a fine job teaching stage combat, and the dueling scenes were enjoyable. The lead performers (Wagner, Longsworth, Meek, and Karton) had a nice chemistry and were able to get a lot of laughs from the audience, particularly from modern-day jokes that were written into the dialogue, like references to Facebook and other social medias.

Standout performances included Sophia Kingsley as the sassy and bold Constance Rochefort, Mady Myers as the anxious Mayor Phillipa, and Maggie Keane as the scheming Milady DeWinter. Adelina Hartley deserves a nod as well; she had a few minor roles such as a Candle maker and Lady-in-waiting, but her expressiveness and enthusiasm made her stand out amongst the large cast. However, the cast member who received the most applause was also the smallest… a real life toy poodle named Piper, whose prescience thrilled the young audience.

Children watching other children perform is an empowering thing, and every time I go to a show like this I notice that the audience is always receptive and excited to watch their own peers thrive onstage. For an evening of family fun, take the kids down to see Encore Stage & Studio’s production of The Three Musketeers!

Running Time: 90 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

The Three Musketeers plays through March 8, 2015 at Encore Stage & Studio, performing at  Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre – 125 South Old Glebe Road, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 548-1154, or purchase them online.

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