Above all, the Children's Theatre of Annapolis production of "The 3 1/2 Musketeers" is cute.
The classic tale of those valiant swordsmen in service to the King of France is cleverly spoofed as young Darth Canyon leaves his native Gascony to join Pothole, Armistice and Applesauce in the royal musketeers.
Of course, the evil Richelieu and his dragon lady ally, the Countess DeWhimper, do their best to ruin the lives of King Louis and Queen Anne, but with this fearsome semi-foursome on the job, how can they hope to succeed?
Don't let the cuteness fool you, though. This is a difficult show to pull off. The score is a tough one; its melodies and harmonies are anything but juvenile. In addition, there is swordplay, some demanding choreography and a host of punch lines that mandate a deft comic touch.
The kids are great fun to watch through all of it. Music director Marsha Goldsmith has her lead characters singing with stylish assurance, especially DeWhimper, Queen Anne and Mademoiselle Cusard in the intricate and quite pretty "Motivations." The Musketeers, led by young John Merrill's Applesauce, are also well worth a listen.
Ms. Goldsmith has fashioned a first-class recording that is spirited, inventive and well-paced even if it is in synthesized sound.
The kids deliver their "Naked Gun"-inspired dialogue with real panache. "I'm from Gascony," says talented Peter Bloom, a charmer as Darth Canyon.
"Oh yeah? What part?" someone asks.
"All of me," he deadpans.
Jennifer Sjolie's choreography is brought off nicely and the swordplay should prove as exciting to your little ones as it did to mine.
In week two, however, each singer needs to pay closer attention to the tape. There were a few major traffic jams in some of the numbers because the excitement of live performance carried the kids off and away from the rhythm of the recording. Adrenalin can be a mixed blessing, especially for the young.
"The 3 1/2 Musketeers" will conclude its run at the Pascal Center for the Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College this weekend. Performances are at 7 p.m. today, 3 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $6. Information: 757-2281.