Friday, July 13, 2018

Review of Cobb and Co.'s The Three Musketeers

I don't normally drive eight hours to see a play, but after watching Cobb and Co.'s latest showing of Three Musketeers at Angelus Theater in Provo, I might have to make a habit of it. Cobb and Co. is a theater production company spearheaded by John and Ruth Cobb, writer and director respectively, who excel at producing fun, original works for the stage. It's a family business full of talent (think Surviving the Applewhites meets Little Women) and a passion for making audiences ROTFLOL. There really isn't a better word to describe my personal reaction.

Shenanigans and swordplay abound in this comical, musical adaptation of Alexander Dumas's classic The Three Musketeers.

It feels odd to observe, regarding a play titled The Three Musketeers, that the Three Musketeers stole the show. But they kinda did. D'Artagnan is a delightfully fascinating character, likable in every way and yet designed to deliver a painful character arc through all the laughter. When his idols come on stage, though, the orchestrated chaos that ensues is nothing short of gleeful. At least half of the most sizzling dialogue in the play comes from their witty banter, delivered during fun and energetic swordplay that makes you wonder how they can keep enough breath to continue singing at full volume. But they do. It's a talented act, and the songs are a huge part of the appeal.

The songs, written by John Cobb and composed by Karol Cobb, have more than enough range to round out a play of this length and depth. Between melancholy love songs, rousing Broadway-style numbers, and powerful reflective pieces (I'm looking at you "White is Blanc and Black is Noir"), I really wish they were selling CDs at the entrance to the theater. I'm no music critic, so I can't speak for the technical achievements and performative prowess of the singers and composers... wait, yes I can. Gimme more!!!

My favorite moments in the story include the rendezvous between D'Artagnan and Constance, a blessedly clueless romantic pair who stumble around each other with delightful, but poorly aimed sincerity. It's like a first date, in fact it is a first date, just... more so. The masquerade much later in the play has a very different tone, alternating layers of intrigue and ludicrousness as D'Artagnan dances/bumbles his way around spies and traitors. It thickens the plot, it adds nuance to the conflict in D'Artagnan's developing character, and it presents a beautiful spectacle. After that, choosing a favorite action scene is just impossible. The choreography is tight but never confusing, with a liberal dose of whimsy to remind us that the actors are having just as much fun as we are.

There is always a danger with well-written comedy that the performance will undercut the actual story. Thankfully, none of the actors have that problem. They can play for laughs, it's true, and you will be laughing at the antics and the slapstick and the snappy dialogue, but the character portrayals are as sincere as you'll ever find on the stage. There's a purity in the story that warms the heart, even as you're watching the Musketeers and the Cardinal's guards chase each other across the stage and down each aisle of the theater. Is it fun? Yes. Is it engaging and entertaining? Double yes. Does it betray an encouraging sensibility that's both humane and edifying at the same time? Why yes. Yes it does.

Come see it.

The next Cobb and Co. production is an original adaption of Prince and the Pauper in August at the Utah Renaissance Fair. If you want to know when The Three Musketeers will be back, or what other productions the Cobb and Co. Theater company are working on, go check their website: