"Three" is the number of theatres that producer Greg Schaffert and producing partner Buddy Martin are seeking to grow and develop the 1620s-set musical. They've already seen the work tested at two: Schaffert helped arrange the 2006 Chicago Shakespeare Theater production and the current North Shore run in Beverly, MA.
Schaffert told Playbill.com a third market would allow writers Peter Raby (book), Paul Leigh (lyrics) and George Stiles (music) — and director Francis Matthews — to implement what they've learned in recent weeks in Massachusetts.
The property's life in Illinois and New England is akin to the classic tryout period that many commercial shows go through, only this time not-for-profits have been testing the work. (For the record, Schaffert and Martin gave North Shore enhancement money to cover the sumptuous new physical production that evokes 17th-century France — in the round, no less, owing to North Shore's famous stage configuration).
The marquee-value title of The Three Musketeers, inspired by the Alexandre Dumas pere novel that was first serialized in the 1840s, would seem to be a natural for theatres seeking family-friendly musical adventure. Schaffert said the show has a theatrical, actor-driven Nicholas Nickleby quality that gives it fresh life beyond what was seen in Chicago and in previous developmental steps (notably, in 2000-01 in San Jose, CA — an experience best forgotten, the creators have said).
Recent reviews of the show have knocked the overly intricate plot and the sometimes generic musical storytelling. Schaffert said the creative team has taken notes and will jump back into rewriting. They hope a regional organization with a proscenium house will be the launch pad for a London or Broadway production. New since the December 2006 Chicago staging are director Francis Matthews and designers Lez Brotherston (sets and costumes) and Hugh Vanstone (lighting). They, the writers and others in the creative team will continue with the project when it finds its future, Schaffert said.
Aaron Tveit has been singled out in reviews for his strong performance as young D'Artagnan, whose fondest wish is to join the King of France's elite guards — the musketeers. Athos, Porthos and Aramis are the characters of the title.
The North Shore run was rehearsed with a mostly new cast (of 24) in a little more than two weeks, Schaffert said, adding that more time to explore the material is vital for the next step.
In the meantime potential producing partners are headed to Beverly, MA, to see if they might have a hand in the next potential hit historical musical romance.
North Shore audiences have seen the work of composer Stiles before: His Honk!, Just So and Tom Jones have played there. Stiles penned new music and revisions to Broadway and London's Mary Poppins.
For more information about The Three Musketeers, visit www.nsmt.org.