NEWS

North Shore's 'Three Musketeers' may be Broadway bound

Theresa DeFranzo

North Shore Music Theatre is headed to Broadway. Well, not exactly the theater, but a production that you can see this summer right here in Beverly.

There is a good chance that “The Three Musketeers” — a new musical adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel — will end up on the Great White Way. NSMT staff — along with 321 Theatrical Management, a production company — are gearing up to take “The Three Musketeers” to Broadway. If it happens, and the folks involved are highly optimistic it will, it would be the first time in the theater’s history that a new work went from NSMT to the Broadway stage. It plays at NSMT from Aug. 21 through Sept. 9.

And local audiences will have full bragging rights to be able to say they saw it first — and for a lot less money.

This is significant to NSMT for several reasons. The first is financial. NSMT would receive a portion of the ticket sales from the Broadway shows. Also, it would bring more prestige to the theater. It could serve as a selling point in recruiting “big name” talent to the theater, from composers to directors to actors, says Jon Kimbell, NSMT executive producer and artistic director.

“Let’s say it’s a success,” Kimbell says. “It raises our name nationally.”

As for any money NSMT would receive, Kimbell says, “We would put the money back into developing new works."

D’Artagnan’s journey

So when might all of this happen? The earliest would be the fall of 2008, says Greg Schaffert, consulting commercial producer with 321 Theatrical Management. 321 Theatrical Management’s current productions include “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Wicked” and “The Graduate.”

Schaffert says the production needs to mounted in a proscenium theater first before heading to New York. NSMT is an in-the-round theater, and most Broadway theaters are proscenium format.

“My thinking is, let’s go somewhere else first so we can tweak it one more time,” Schaffert says.

“The Three Musketeers” is a co-production not only with Schaffert, but also with Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It played there first and has since been revised, Kimbell says.

Schaffert says, “We learned an incredible amount from the Chicago production.”

That education, if you will, led to major changes that audiences will see at NSMT. If it needs to be tweaked or reworked again, Schaffert says they’ll do it now — as he points out, you only get one chance once you get to Broadway.

The composer of the production is George Stiles, who should be familiar to NSMT audiences: He wrote the music for “Honk!,” “Tom Jones” and “Just So.”

“It’s one of the best scores I’ve heard,” says Aaron Tveit, who will play D’Artagnan.

The story focuses on D’Artagnan and his adventures in Paris with Athos, Porthos and Aramis, the hardiest, wittiest and most reckless of King Louis XIII’s musketeers. “Since Chicago’s production of ‘The Three Musketeers’ in December we’ve worked closely with George and the creative team to revise and refocus the script and score to further clarify D’Artagnan’s journey,” notes Kimbell.

“We’ve been working on this since 1999. Musicals always take a long time. This show takes you where you don’t really expect to go,” Stiles says. “This is the story of one boy’s determination to become a hero. I wanted to do this [The Three Musketeers] as a musical — very truthful, very real — but also heroic and adventurous.”

The male component

Schaffert says he thinks “The Three Musketeers” has all the necessary ingredients to be a hit.

“A producer’s job is to decide ‘Does this show have an audience?’ I think this has a few audiences. It has sword fighting. It has romance. It’s like ‘Wicked’ — anyone between eight and 80 will want to see it.”

But while its universal appeal may have something in common with that 2003 Broadway hit, “It’s a little bit different. It has a male component,” Schaffert says. “Men will want to see it. ‘Wicked’ is for 13-year-old girls. This will be for 11-year-old boys.”

Francis Matthew, the show’s director, says people will fall in love with the story.

“This musical is about a lot of people’s attitudes towards the future,” he says. “The Three Musketeers are always singing about the future.”

And Kimbell says the set and the costumes will have people talking. The set and costume designer is Tony Award winner Lez Brotherston.

“There is a use of this space that hasn’t happened before,” Kimbell says. “There are ropes to swing on. The set is like a playground.”

While many people may be familiar with “The Three Musketeers,” either because they know the story or have read the novel, Kimbell admits that some people shy away from seeing new works. He’d like to change that. After all, “The Sound of Music” was once a new work.

“We are trying to form what are tomorrow’s Oklahomas,” Kimbell says.

Even though Kimbell is stepping down from his position at the end of the year, he will still be consulting with NSMT and says he will see this project through.

“My interest is in developing new works. It’s what gets me up in the morning,” he says. “I will stay with this through the end.”

“The Three Musketeers” runs Aug. 21 through Sept. 9 at North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road in Beverly. Tickets are $35-$70. Senior and youth discounts and rush tickets are available. For show times and tickets, visit www.nsmt.org, call 978-232-7200 or visit the box office at 62 Dunham Road.

Theresa DeFranzo is a freelance writer. Sally Applegate also contributed to this story.