MADISON, NJ – The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has opened its season with a dashing, madcap version of  Alexander Dumas’s  “The Three Musketeers.” Playwright Ken Ludwig has created a play for today’s audience, with contemporary touches and plenty of action.

The story, set in 1625 in Paris, brings a fourth musketeer into the mix as they challenge Cardinal Richelieu (Bruce Cromer) who is involved in a power struggle with King Louis XIII (Michael Stewart Allen) and Queen Anne (Fiona Robberson).

Charged with fulfilling his father’s allegiance to the king is D’Artagnan (Cooper Jennings).  Jennings, in his first season with the Shakespeare Theatre, brings an earnest, convincing quality to the young man who sets out to prove himself. David DeBesse as his father urges him on and insists he wear the old, beat up feathered hat that served him well in previous battles.  He must also take his sister, Sabine (Courtney McGowan) along to enter a convent school in Paris. Sabine insists it will be easier if she travels as a boy. The character of Sabine is an invention of Ludwig,  no doubt to add even more spice to this story.

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Director Rick Sordelet called attention to McGowan at the end of the opening night performance as she filled in for Andrea Morales, who was in an accident just two days earlier and could not go on. McGowan provides a winsome, compelling performance.

Jeffrey M. Bender appears as the burly Rochefort, an agent of the Cardinal and Clark Scott Carmichael wins audience laughs as the effete Duke of Buckingham.

Some of the plot hinges on a diamond necklace, which the queen has given to the Duke. When the cardinal hears about this he dispenses his calculating niece, Milady (Anastasia  Le Gendre) to travel to England, steal two diamonds from the necklace and bring them back to France. Le Gendre prove worthy of the role in her sly performance.  Constance (Billie Wyatt), seamstress to the queen, warns D’Artagnan of the plot. During the course of the play, the young man has fallen in love with her.

There is plenty of intrigue as one plot builds on another. But the three musketeers carry through, with ‘all for one and one for all,’ played by John Keabler as Athos, Paul Molnar as Porthos and Alexander Sovronsky as Aramis.

There are colorful scenes of a ball, a pub for drinking and brawling, intermittent original music by Sovronsky, vivid costumes by Brian Russman and lighting by Matthew Adelson. The fluid set is designed by Brian Prather. Christian Kelly-Sordelet directed the intricate fight scenes.

For a rousing evening of fun and mayhem, Ludwig’s  “The Three Musketeers” will keep audiences engaged. Performances continue through July 7. For tickets, call 973-508-5600 or visit ShakespeareNJ.org.