angelofmusic: (3 Musketeers)
[personal profile] angelofmusic
Musical: 3 Musketiers - De Musical
Production: Original Dutch Cast Commercial DVD
Year: 2003

I can happily say this is by far and away one of my favourite musicals that I own on DVD. I'm so glad they released the proshot, and on top of the show being amazing, they were very obliging and included english subtitles for us not-so-Dutch people :)

The story is one that I imagine everyone knows: D'Artagnan goes to Paris to join the King's Musketeers only to find them disbanded and the King oblivious to the threat of the formidable and corrupt Cardinal Richelieu, who is doing his utmost to discredit the Queen and usurp the power of the King with the help of Milady Dewinter. D'Artagnan joins forces with the three remaining loyal Musketeers - Porthos, Athos and Aramis - and fights to save the day.

I love the Musketeers story. It is, in essence, the story of the rather dumb, ambitious boy who comes good in the end. The casting is brilliant (more on this later) and the music is fantastic. It's part rock music, but part standard musical, and it really works. The staging doesn't hurt, with a masssive stage and moving sets.

They have help from the Henson puppet workshop, for some of the props and design, which is hilarious when looking at the Royal Pets. Actually, everything about the look of the thing is brilliant. One of the most impressive sequences is D'Artagnan's journey to England, which sees a ship on the stage. A ship.

But to get back to the review, the costumes are a strange hybrid of period-look and high-fashion, with extravagant and ornate dresses for the ladies especially. It's like a fashion designer reimagined the clothing of the period and added their own tweaks to make it look extraordinary. Possibly excepting Milady de Winter's black leather catsuit, which is really just there to make everyone stare in awe at Milady.

The stage-fighting isn't bad at all either, especially at points when there are at least 6 people versus the Musketeers, although when it comes down to action-filled sequences, Richelieu's call to arms is incredibly powerful.

What I especially like about this show, though, is the fact this isn't a show with a happy ending. Yes, the Musketeers succeed. Yes, the King and Queen are saved. Yes, they save the day. But there are losses, both good and bad, and the whole show is the journey of D'Artagnan from cocky, naive country boy to the man he has become.

The show begins and ends with 'Vader' (Father), sung by D'Artagnan. His first scene is arguing with his father about wanting to become a Musketeer. By the reprise at his father's graveside in the final scene, D'Artagnan's words now show understanding of the lesson his father was trying to give him, showing how he has grown.

Now, to the cast. I have to do it by favourites, just because he's the reason I bought this DVD unseen:

Stanley Burleson as Richelieu

This is a role that has to be done right or it can make the show a complete train-wreck, and Burleson was more then perfect. His Richelieu is not only utterly in command, calm and utterly charismatic in manner, but also has layer upon layer of stuff going on.

There were so many little nuances in his performance, even just the way he moved his hand minutely which showed that while he was calm on the surface, there was fury not far below. His sequences with Milady smouldered, even though in other scenes, he was completely ice cold and emotionless.

Still, this is a Richelieu with layers. He begins in prayer ('O Heer') but as the situation unfolds and things start going wrong, he ends up having a crisis of faith, crying out to God that everything he's doing - even giving up nookie with that rather delicious Milady - is in God's name. He's so fragile and uncertain for that moment, so unlike the rest of the show, simply wanting to know he's doing the right thing.

I could go on and on about the different nuances he brings out in every scene, from impatient with the King, to tempted by Milady, to the fragile, isolated man who will do anything for his God. The way he moves in every scene is completely different, showing so much emotion. Yes, I watch his scenes over and over again. Is this a problem?

Pia Douwes as Milady

Ah, Pia. Funny thing is that I had heard her in loads of shows in German, and her voice never did anything for me, but singing in Dutch, she's fantastic. And as Milady, even more so. It's such a wonderful character anyway - Athos' estranged wife, branded as a whore. And in this show, she's giving a leather catsuit and sword, which she is more than capable of using.

She's certainly a practical character, using her feminine wiles to manipulate the men around her, and Pia plays her magnificently. Her piece de resistance is "Mannen", basically a shout out to the fact that every man will eventually bend to do what she wants. Working as a spy for Richelieu, she scorches with him, but like him, she has her backstory.

This is another thing I like about this show is that every character is given a moment to show who they are. Milady shows her vulnerable side, when confronted with her once-husband, the one man she loved and still does, and the man who betrayed her by driving her away. And yet, this is the woman who murders a girl, who happens to be happy in love for just that reason. She's not a nice woman, but Pia gave her enough broken sadness in her background to at least make it possible to pity her.

Now, to the other cast members:

Bastiaan Ragas as D'Artagnan

Bastiaan really manages to make an interesting D'Artagnan. He's overly-cocky, arrogant and more than a little stupid when he first comes to the city, but what really makes him is the transition from this daft boy into a man. While he still has some of his hopes, by the end of the show, he is older, wiser and sadder than he was at the beginning.

His voice really suits D'Artagnan's big solos, with a rock vibe and so much energy that you feel tired just watching him. And the chemistry between him and Tooske is lovely, and so genuine: they ended up married :)

Tooske Breugem as Constance

It's not a huge role, but has several lovely songs. She's such a pretty little thing, and the trio between Milady, Queen Anne and Constance, each of them thinking about the person they love/once loved, is absolutely gorgeous.

Henk Poort as Athos

Henk Poort is wonderful :) He has such a beautiful, resonant voice. He was the Phantom in the Dutch production of Phantom of the Opera, and while Athos is a fairly small role by comparison, he's the lovable father-figure of the errant D'Artagnan. And again, he transfer you to the department of backstory, wherein you find out his one true love is incidentally the woman who, for whatever reason, later murders D'Artagnan's girlfriend.

Cees Geel as Porthos and Rein Kolpa as Aramis

Porthos and Aramis unfortunately are rather diminished roles in this show, by comparison to Athos, but they do still get some fun moments, especially during the fights sequences. Plus, Porthos is constantly teased about not being all that bright, especially when they're in disguise.

Ellen Evers as Queen Anne

This woman's voice is amazingly beautiful. Anne is the focal point of the action, and Ellen Evers managed to make her both sympathetic, but also quite foolish in the mistakes she has made in all innocence. Her helplessness is such a foil to milady's practical ruthlessness.

So, in summary, I love this show. It has passion, fun music, sword-fighting, fantastic characters, great staging, wonderful prop work, a great cast and on the whole, is an all round brilliant production.
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