Review: Classic Theatre of Harlem Brings a Bit of the Hood To Its ‘Three Musketeers’
By Megan Wrappe, Contributing Writer, July 12, 2017
The story of The Three Musketeers was already a “classic” when it was written by Alexandre Dumas in 1844, setting the story two hundred years earlier. I had the pleasure of being reintroduced to the story of Portos, Athos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan recently in The Classic Theatre of Harlem’s production of The Three Musketeers, directed by Jenny Bennett. Not only did this production give a nod to Harlem, it relates perfectly to many of the political overtones that we are currently experiencing globally.
The story begins in France in 1625 with D’Artagnan, a boy from the country who seeks a place in the King’s Musketeers. In this gender-fluid production, D’Artagnan is played enthusiastically by Miriam Hyman, arriving in Paris only to duel the Comte de Rochefort (RJ Foster) and have his letter of introduction for the Musketeers stolen. He vows to avenge this robbery, and sets off to fight for his place in the Musketeers himself. He then becomes acquainted with the the three best Musketeers, Portos (Reynaldo Pinella), Athos (Emmanuel Brown), and Aramis (Brandon Carter), who introduce him to the life of being a Musketeer. The three are mainly occupied by keeping Cardinal Richelieu (Michael Early) and his soldiers at bay, but when D’Artagnan’s love Constance (Ava McCoy) is kidnapped, the four set out to find her before the mystery woman (Piera Van De Wiel) finds her first.
With the amount of swordplay that is incorporated into The Three Musketeers, there is no shortage of fight scenes. Choreographed fantastically by Emmanuel Brown, these scenes are filled with thrilling action-flips, somersaults, and even a rap line or two, truly make this production one-of-a-kind with their attention to detail. The battles bring the plight of the Musketeers to life, leaving the audience breathless and prompting them to give thunderous applause after each one.
With the play being a period piece, the costumes from this era are on the classic side, but definitely were not traditional. The three Musketeers may wear their traditional hats with feathers, but all three wear elaborate colors like blue, yellow, and pink with patterned shirts to match. With an array of colors such as deep purple, blue, gold, red and black present in the costumes, including boots stitched with flowers, dresses with elaborate skirt patterns, and pants with every shape and color, it makes for an almost runway worthy presentation. This nod to the colorful fashion of Harlem doesn’t go unnoticed, and only adds to the unique flavor of the entire production.
The use of modern language is also noteworthy. Here, the Musketeers consistently use slang phrases, and even break into a rap battle at one point, receiving enthusiastic outbursts from the audience. The use of modern language as well as the vernacular made the show even more immediate and accessible to the audience, heightening the enjoyment factor immensely.
The Three Musketeers marks the third production of The Classic Theatre of Harlem that I’ve seen, and it may be my favorite. Taking a classic story such as this and making it feel relevant is no easy task, and everyone involved deserves credit for creating such engaging storytelling. With this well-rounded and talented cast, The Three Musketeers should not be missed.
The Three Musketeers presented by The Classic Theatre of Harlem at The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park, New York City, through July 30, 2017. Written by Catherine Bush, adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Directed by Jenny Bennett; choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher; fight choreography by Emmanuel Brown; costume design by Rachel Dozier-Ezell; lighting design by Kate Bashore; set design by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader; sound design by Luqman Brown; musical direction by Shayshahn MacPherson; prop design by Samantha Shoffner; production manager: Burt Reynolds. Cast: Anthony Merchant, Brandon Carter, Emmanuel Brown, Michael Early, Miriam Hyman, Reynaldo Pinella, RJ Foster, Afia Abushham, Ava McCoy, Avon Haughton, Jamar Bathwaite, Jeffrey Alkins, Jorge Sanchez, Nedra Snipes, Piera Van De Wiel, Khiry Walker, Roxanne Young, Alrick A. Thomas, Scott Willits, Wade Watson, Jovanna Parks.
Cover: (l. to r.) Reynaldo Piniella, Emmanuel Brown, Brandon Carter in ‘The Three Musketeers;’ photo: Jill Jones.