'The Three Musketeers' rides again - and gets lost in horseplay;
The Three Musketeers Musical comedy by Rudolf Friml (music), P. G. Wodehouse and Clifford Grey (lyrics), William Anthony McGuire (book). New version by Mark Bramble. Directed by Joe Layton.Skip to next paragraph
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When new musicals are in short supply, Broadway consoles itself by revisiting and revising old ones. Hence the pleasures of two current hits. ''42nd Street'' glories in its borrowings from 1930s Hollywood plots and its sampling of hummable Harry Warren-Al Dubin tunes. ''My One and Only'' dips into ''Funny Face'' and other Gershwin sources for what it calls ''the new Gershwin musical.'' Now comes a recycling of the 1928 Ziegfeld extravaganza, ''The Three Musketeers,'' based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, with a score by Rudolf Friml, at the Broadway Theatre.
''The Three Musketeers'' recalls a golden age of the Broadway lyric theater. In the 1927-28 season, the Friml operetta was one of more than 50 musicals to arrive on the Great White Way, a record for the history books. The parade included ''Good News,'' ''Funny Face,'' ''My Maryland,'' ''A Connecticut Yankee, '' and the legendary ''Showboat.''
Unfortunately for Friml & Co., the sponsors of the ''new version'' of ''The Three Musketeers'' have opted for caricature. They have decided that the way to renovate the old-fashioned operetta was to gag it up, ham it up, and generally treat it in the spirit of vulgar lampoon. The score is a medley of stirring and lilting melodies from the original ''Musketeers'' and other Friml archives. But the songs, too, more often than not receive the burlesque treatment. Quite apart from disserving the musical itself, the treatment diminishes the talented actor-singers recruited for this astonishing mishmash.
It was an amusing novelty to have Michael Praed (an agile and personable D'Artagnan) enter the auditorium on horseback, proceed slowly down the right-hand aisle and onto the stage before dismounting. The rest was horseplay. ''The Three Musketeers'' galloped off wildly in all directions, most of them mistaken.