THREE MUSKETEERS - KINGSTON UPON THAMES – 11 DECEMBER 2010

It is 14 years since I first heard the music of The Three Musketeers by Stiles & Leigh and finally I have now seen an actual production and it was certainly worth the wait : ) The production at Kingston upon Thames captures the essence of Dumas's novel with some great performances, music and staging.

The Rose theatre has been transformed into a multi-level acting area with a wooden structure evoking the 17th century, which enables the actors plenty of scope to give the impression of different locations even converting to a ship and horses at times.

Matt Rawle, Hal Fowler (interestingly both having played D'Artagnan in early workshop / productions of Musketeers) along with Paul Thornley play the three musketeers and what an excellent and engaging trio they are. Capturing the individual characters very well , portraying both the past glories of the Musketeers with the more middle aged men for whom life has lost some direction. They create a relationship which is believable for friends who have been working together for many years and also tolerant of each other's quirks! I am always partial to male singing so to have three strong voices together at times was great. Individually I should mention Paul Thornley's performance of' ‘Take a little wine' as that was an excellent portraying Porthos's inner demons. By the end of the run I will be surprised if there is much left of Michael Pickering if the energy he exuded in this performance carries through. He bounds around the set, even completing some rope leaping at one stage as well! His D'Artagnan is a pleasure to watch, so full of character, a young man's vigour and naivety of youth. It could be said D'Artagnan views all situations with a hint of rose tintedness.

There was great support from Ben Heathcoate as Planchet, the honest (and funny) voice of reason at times amongst heady plans to engage in daring do !

The women were well represented with Kaisa Hammalund, Kirsty Hoiles and C J Johnson as Constance, the Queen and Milady. Of the three Kaisa stood out with her performance creating a charming yet still feisty and adventurous foil for D'Artagnan. Her solo performance of Any Day was excellent. Kirsty was good but could have garnered some more sympathy for her situation as the Queen and CJ was certainly a suitably underhand and untrustworthy villain but I would say her demise was perhaps a little more sudden than it needed to be !

There are scene where the whole stage s filled with sword fights and to quote the man behind me in the theatre 'that was absolutely splendid. Good versus bad and the classic scenes where one good man can easily defeat the 6 bad guys ! There were innovative staging and ideas such as representing a horse by the cast, hard to describe so best to see it in person. The action didn't stop as Musketeers and soldiers battled there was through many scenarios in order to protect the King or for others the Cardinal. The show carries the story at a fair pace so there is time to appreciate the quieter scenes combined with the action ones.

I have been a long time fan of the music of George Stiles and this collaborations with Anthony Drewe and for Musketeers Paul Leigh. The score for this captures both the heroic activities of the musketeers, the romance and the drama of the story. I have a personal favourites with Any Day and Lilacs, which a great songs for the female voice and also the male voices in Count me in and ‘the life of a Musketeer‘.

So if you want to be truly entertained tby an excellent cast in a great show hen I would recommend heading along to Kingston asap !

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