Plenty of adventure and drama awaits audiences as Red Deer College theatre studies students gear up to unveil their rendition of The Three Musketeers.
The production opens tomorrow evening on the Arts Centre mainstage, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Additional shows run Feb. 7-8 and 12-15. Weekend matinees are slated for Feb. 8th and 15th at 1 p.m.
Director Thomas Usher, RDC theatre performance and creation instructor, is confident that the ‘youthful exuberance, impulsive romance and constant action’ in the play will appeal as much today as it did when it was originally written.
He directed a version of The Three Musketeers a few years back for Edmonton’s Stage Polaris. Preparation for that production included reading the lengthy Alexandre Dumas novel, which was actually written as a serial for a publication in France in 1844.
“He eventually put the whole thing into a novel, and then wrote a play version as well.”
Usher describes the production as always active, moving briskly from scene to scene. He also points to its melodramatic and romantic sensibilities.
“There is lots of activity – lots of action to keep the audience aware and engaged.”
As to the plot, Paris is often considered the ‘City of Love’, but for d’Artagnan it’s the place to fulfill his dream of becoming a musketeer. With his sister, he sets off on an adventure filled with all the dramatic twists and swashbuckling turns of a much-loved classic tale.
“Every member of our cast has the chance to do a sword fight along the way, so the women all get to show their finesse with a blade as well.”
Usher said that when Dumas adapted his novel for the stage, he was very attentive to his audience. He wanted to entertain people living in the industrial age to help them escape the humdrum of their lives through an exciting story.
Joining the Musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis – d’Artagnan races to defend the honour of the Queen of France against the evil Cardinal Richelieu.
It’s a story propelled by the enthusiasm and energy of young men and women who are driven by their ideals and the belief that the just are rewarded and the evil are punished. The tale’s enduring popularity rests on its foundation of those timeless and universal elements that are the bedrock of pretty much any classic.
“It’s a romance, it’s all about love, it’s all about fighting for the things you believe in and using the strength of youth to stand up for the weaker person. It’s also about good overcoming evil – all of those great, romantic ideals that certainly came out of the period that Dumas wrote in.
“It was also about 50 years after the French revolution, so they are trying to establish themselves with a strong, nationalistic pride.” The age-old appeal of the notion of good triumphing over evil is also key to the story’s legendary status and accessibility, too.
It’s certainly been an adventure in pulling such a grand tale together. The actors maneuver through 16 fight sequences in the production. The long, heavy rapier blades used in the play are on loan from Vancouver and after the show, they will head north to Edmonton for the Citadel’s production of Romeo and Juliet.
Usher brought in Calgary-based Laryssa Yanchuk – the first female certified fight director in Canada — to help out in sword fighting sequences and choreography as well. “With actors on a very dynamic stage in so many fight sequences, this story makes for a thrilling night of theatre,” said Usher. “It’s been really cool to have her onboard,” he said.
Adapted by Ken Ludwig, The Three Musketeers is the second mainstage show in RDC’s ‘Knock Your Socks Off’ performing arts season.
Meanwhile, Usher is confident audiences are in for a full-scale treat.
“I hope they are breathless by the time they leave because of the pace that the piece runs at,” he said. “We’ve brought the action right down to the front, too.”
Along the way, there’s been a few highlights as this particular show has taken shape.
It’s exciting to see young actors step up with strong choices and really throwing themselves into the roles, he said. “What we are most worried about as directors are actors who are timid, and who are waiting to be told what to do. It’s not really my job as a director to do that. My job is to tell you what’s working and for you to bring something new and fresh to it, and to connect to the other actors onstage.
“When that happens – and it’s happened a number of times during this production so it’s been fun to watch – it’s really great. It’s exciting to see actors lose the fact they are being watched by a director and to see them enjoying themselves playing onstage.
“The joy comes from seeing them committing so much to their work.”
Tickets are available through www.bkticketcentre.ca or by calling 403-755-6626 or toll free at 1-800-661-8793. Families can take advantage of the family discount and groups of 12 get a special group rate.