Four-part harmonies and bonkers humour add to swashbuckling action
All for fun and fun for all – it's the return of Barbershopera. The hugely popular, award-laden crew are back for their third successive pre-Christmas run at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
This time they've brought their swords for The Three Musketeers, their take on Alexandre Dumas' adventure tale with added four-part harmonies and some bonkers humour.
We can expect something like Blackadder meets Gilbert and Sullivan, somewhere in 17th century France.
Two other ingredients include some gender confusion and a nod to the season.
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"I play d'Artignan – Nicole d'Artignan," says one of the four, Lara Stubbs, "and M'lady is played by a man.
"She dresses as a man to join the King's Musketeers because her village is being threatened by Cardinal Richtea."
The show earned the group their fifth Musical Theatre Matters award at the Edinburgh Festival this summer and has been re-written, expanded (to about 90 minutes) and given a little extra flavour. "The songs are all original but there will be some Christmas music popping up."
The Barbershopera formula began in 2008 with Toni and the Guys, the tale of a barbershop quartet who recruit an opera singer to make up their numbers when a regular drops out at the last moment before a big contest.
The Barber of Shavingham followed and then Apocalypse No (also tweaked to Noel).
All feature some seriously good singing among the comedy antics. Mezzo-soprano Lara's range runs from rock to opera with blues, jazz and ballad in between.
When she isn't Barbershopering she is acting and gigging as a singer. "I started singing at school and kept on. You wouldn't believe the amount of Whitney Houston I used to sing.
"I've done a lot of Patsy Cline, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald, and musicals, jazz, opera and classical.
"That's the joy of Barbershopera, the variety. I get to sing in lots of different style," she says. "It is lovely making your voice malleable."
On talents she is unlikely to get a chance to showcase with Barbershopera on a stage is her skill in the saddle. She can ride a horse – and a camel.
"I don't know how that happened," she says, giggling.
"I must have spent a lot of time on those holidays where you climb on a camel and have your photo taken.
"As an actor I've played a few Middle Eastern characters so I put camel riding on my CV.
"It might come in useful and get me a part one day." And some more laughs.
The Three Musketeers continues at the Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth until December 23. Box office: 01752 267222. Tune in to BBC Radio 4's Afternoon Play on Christmas Eve to hear Barbershopera's The Barber of Shavingham.