What is is about us Brits turning French historical
culture into musicals?
OK so we do have a far better tradition of theatre than the
French, but they don't do Dickens, or Lewis Caroll or even that
many Shakespeare comedies in the same way as we do Hugo or Dumas
and don't even talk about Gaston Leroux. Yet perhaps with that in
mind the Rose Theatre
in Kingston gives us its Christmas crowd pleaser to which one
could happily bring in the mother-in-law, first-time theatre goer
but perhaps not the Olivier judging cousin.
From almost the moment the (metaphorical) curtain rises, the
show is on high energy to please. There are some wonderful set
pieces. When D'Artagnan is riding to Paris for example, director
Francis Matthews gathers the cast in formation to simulate the
galloping horses by simply leaning in time with the 6/8 rhythm of
George Stiles' score.
(listen on http://www.e-flier.co.uk/rosetheatre/thethreemusketeers/)
You don't need to refer to the programme to learn that
Stephen Sondheim influenced lyricist Paul Leigh. Especially in the
first half there were some exciting, sung through numbers,
which where clever enough to be laugh out loud; in preparation for
a dual a Musketeer sings "We'll soon see what you're made of" to
which D'Artagnan replies "That's what I'm afraid of"! Or Milady
singing "Touch of Rouge" to rhymn with "Subterfuge".
One number which distracted me enough to think "Is this wise?"
came at the beginning of Act II - A Good Old Fashioned War
claiming that all that was needed to sort out the mood was
conflict. Maybe light hearted enough when the show was written. In
this climate however it may go down less well.
This is certainly a show which will please the family. Plenty of
fight scenes romantic interest and luscious costumes - a tad
short on comedy, but great singing and some superb performances.
Paul Thornley as Athos was simply superb and no doubt casting
directors will be flocking to the West End when it transfers to see
fresh-faced Michael Pickering.
Kaisa Hammarlund's voice was beautifully suited to the role of
Constance and Matt Rawle and Hal Fowler as the remainder of the
Musketing trio fought and sung fabulously well for the show.
One tiny gripe though, from this French speaking audience
member. Unless someone can tell me that it's a particularly
17th century pronunciation, isn't the final S on
Fleur de Lys always heard?
Certainly an excellent choice for Christmas, even if you can't
quite remember the best songs as you leave. But you can blow
me down with fleur-de-lys if it picks up the success of the other
French historical musicals we've seen.
Do contact us to
comment.. have you seen the show?