Review: 'The Three Musketeers' by Phoenix Stage Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

Always stand up for what you believe in. Never back down unless you’re wrong. If a man insults you, turn the other cheek. If he insults you again, kill him. Make courage your watchword. But courage is more than arms and legs. It takes courage to be yourself, so do it. Above all things, live a life of honor. Honor the people you love, the ideals you cherish and the man inside you. - D'ARTAGNAN’S FATHER

Oakville, CT - The 2017 season continued at Phoenix Stage Company on Saturday with the opening of a swashbuckling production of the dramatic comedy ‘The Three Musketeers.’ This version of the play was written by Ken Ludwig and was adapted from the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas. John Long directed the comings and goings of this very large cast on their three-sided stage with the help of stage manager Debbie Cryan.

This updated version of this tale of treachery, heroism, narrow escapes and most importantly honor, unfolds in a whopping twenty scenes with an intermission, so this is a three hour performance. It had to be exhausting for the performers but it certainly did not show; the marathon of adventure was punctuated with some quasi-contemporary comedy that the audience enjoyed. The feathered hats and classic capes, the abundance of rapiers, and the “one for all…” lines had a very old-Hollywood feel.

Two of the original three musketeers were played by Naugatuck Valley Community College students. Brian Bowyer of Bethlehem (‘Macbeth’ at PSC) returned to this stage to play Porthos and did well as the tallest of the three. Christopher Varanko of Watertown, who appeared in many Whimsicality productions there, was the pious Aramis and got to use his musical ability in one scene. Fight choreographer Rob Richnavsky played both D’Artagnan’s father and the third hero Athos; Mr. Richnavsky has appeared in a slew of PSC productions and was glorious as the father of a future Musketeer as well as one of the swashbucklers himself.

Dante Cyr, a NVCC student from Waterbury, made his PSC debut in the role of the young D’Artagnan and did very well with both the comedy and the danger. Michael Cassidy made his PSC debut as Rochefort, a very commanding and evil henchman of the equally evil Cardinal Richelieu. This villain was played to perfection by PSC regular Daniel R. Willey.

Rodney K, who has appeared on many stages around CT, made his PSC debut in six roles. David Walker of Milford made his stage debut as Ravanche, Stanley and a servant and seemed to be enjoying it. Aric Martin, who writes in the program that he simply “hangs around Phoenix until they give him something to do,” was a standout in the role of King Louis. A slightly kinder version of King George in ‘Hamilton,’ this king made us laugh every time he entered in his impossibly curly black wig. Also in the cast was Keith Fiermonet as Basile, Fache and a cardinal’s guard.

The ladies in the cast included the always luminous Kristen Jacobsen in the role billed as “Milady,” a most nefarious lady at that. This actress has appeared in many PCS productions, most notably as Lady Macbeth. Deb Goodman, who was also in ‘Macbeth,’  here played the regal, if less than faithful, Queen Anne and got to wear the best jewelry. Em Mazotas of Middletown played Elise, a nun, an abbess and a cardinal’s guard. Katie Steinbacher, a Woodland grad and now a NVCC student, was lovely in the role of lady in waiting Constance Bonacieux. Laura Sturges-Cortez of Hamden did well as D’Artangnan’s mother, Adele, the mother superior and an old woman.

Adrianna Varanko, who also worked in NVCC productions, was a joy to watch in her PSC debut in the role of D’Artangnan’s sister Sabine. Always light on her feet, this young actress enjoyed the role of the ultimate tomboy who tags along with her brother on his adventure.

The team of Chris Pytlak, Rob Richnavsky and Burton Tedesco took charge of the fight choreography; this show requires plenty of fighting and swordplay, as well as the use of daggers and muskets, and half of the 16 member cast had to master the intricate moves while staying safe. Kudos to this team for making it all look (and sound) very real and to props master Lori Poulin and her assistant Michael Calabrese for trying to keep the very loud props quiet backstage.

Ms. Jacobson did the period choreography and the multi-talented Mr. Varanko composed the original song “Sing Diddle Diddle” that he performed with a few of the other men while playing on the mandolin. Ed Bassett was in charge of the flouncy 16th century costumes and Ms. Poulin was the costume assistant. My castmate from ‘The Last Supper: A Musical Reenactment’ at the PSC Marsha (Gaylord) Navarette designed the regal jewelry; one showy necklace played an important role in the plot.  Mr. Bassett also designed the set that featured two panels which rotated as needed and Al Hathway worked his magic with the lighting design, especially in a stained glass motif.

Click for the podcast of Backstage with Johnny O’s interview with the director and Mr. Richnavsky.

‘The Three Musketeers’ runs through June 24. Next up at Phoenix Stage Company is ‘Baskerville A Sherlock Holmes Mystery’ by Ken Ludwig, which opens on July 15, 2017.Congratulations to the cast of Baskerville: Jonathan Ross, Tim Phillips, Dan Willey, Joshua Luszczak, KC Ross & Deb Goodman.


Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to local sites. Check out her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @nancysjanis417