For this year’s annual holiday panto—a traditional British genre of winter musical comedy inspired by familiar tales from popular literature–People’s Light & Theatre Company is remounting its 2010 hit THE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE LATER YEARS), with a few new revisions. And it’s just as terrific the second time around! Written by Kathryn Petersen, with music and lyrics by Michael Ogborn, the well-known historical adventure story by Alexandre Dumas, which takes place in the swashbuckling world of 17th-century France, is infused with the signature panto conventions of wacky humor, spirited song and dance, current local references, and audience participation.
Along with the usual (or in this case, unusually funny) Athos (Owen Pelesh), Porthos (Brad DePlanche), Aramis (panto regular Tom Teti), and D’Artagnan (Robert Smythe), this original reimagining, set at the fictional court of Malvaria, includes a talking dog (the loyal Horace the Hound, sweetly played by Dito Van Reigersberg) and chicken (the “abso-cluckin’-lutely” fabulous Leah Walton as Henrietta), and D’Artagnan’s love Colette (Meera Mohan, in fine voice). All are pitted against the evil Lord Guido Mazarotti (the ever-hilarious Pete Pryor, who also directs, reprising his role as the villain) and his ear-piercing screeching falcons (Marissa Barnathan as Aplomado, Susan McKey as Gyrfalcon, Katie Johantgen as Peregrine, and Laura Giknis as Kestral, the delightfully ditzy young bird-of-prey-in-training). Zaniness ensues as they attempt a coup d’état against young King Hughy XIV (the adorable Tabitha Allen), prone to temper tantrums and distracted by a “Thumb-box 360” digital device (“Sure, whatever . . .”) and his mother Queen Agnes (Mark Lazar, in over-the-top make-up, wigs, jewelry, and gowns—adapted by Bridget Brennan from the 2010 designs of Alisa Kleckner–for his recurrent role as the panto’s resident Dame), recently returned to court (“I just got back; I was a broad.”).
Among the most entertaining segments (in a show filled with nothing but entertaining segments) is a side-splitting barber-shop scene with the disguised Athos and Porthos making a banana split (“This doesn’t even make sense anymore!”), and Lord Mazarotti speaking in incomprehensible broken English, loaded with mispronunciations and malapropisms (“Look it up!”). There is also a new black-light Star-Wars-style battle scene–a dark delight of colorful glowing swords and swooping falcons (puppetry by Smythe; fight direction and choreography by Samantha Reading). All of the hilarity is accompanied by live piano (Geoff Langley, who also serves as music director) and drums (Kanako Omae Neale, adding the ‘ba-dum-bum’ zing after the silliest jokes).
THE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE LATER YEARS) is all for fun and fun for all–including the enthusiastic cast, who obviously enjoy performing the panto as much as the audience does watching it!
[Leonard C. Haas Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA] November 18, 2015-January 10, 2016; peopleslight.org.