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Barbershopera: The Three Musketeers
Published on Monday, 27 August 2012
5

5 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Comedy
1-12, 14-19, 21-27 Aug, 11:05pm-12:05am
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

After a break last year from Edinburgh, Barbershopera are back. I have been at the Fringe ever year they have, and seen every one of their shows – and over that time I’ve seen them develop a loyal fan base, be broadcast on Radio 4, and have a successful run in London. They were even available on the entertainment system on my last trans-Atlantic flight!

As in the original self-titled Barbershopera, Lara Stubbs finds herself as a woman in a man's world, as the team delightfully romp through Dumas' classic – with tongue firmly in cheek. Expect lots of cross-dressing, silly French accents (subversively though, that’s how the English characters sound – the French speak with perfect Received Pronunciation), larger-than-life royalty, as well as a few nods to popular culture. But holding together all the camp comedy is one of their signature scripts, stuffed with wonderfully witty wordplay, ridiculous rhymes, ludicrous lyrics, innocuous innuendos and absurd alliteration. Blink and you will miss the first joke of the show.

Musically, Stubbs is still the standout singer. As a mezzo soprano, her voice has always been the unique charm of Barbershopera. This year, the team find themselves in the bigger, more resonant venue of Pleasance Two, and what they lose in intimacy Stubbs more than makes up for in the big finale. I am also incredibly pleased to report that Rob Castell's voice has mellowed into a fine baritone, anchoring the quartet with that all-important strong bass the team has previously always been lacking.

But like their show two years ago, some fans of the original Barbershopera may feel there just aren’t enough songs. Once again, there quite a number of fairly conventional comic sketches that are spoken the whole way through. It seems the show has become less about the music, more about the comedy. Admittedly the comedy is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, but it is still a shame that they’re losing what made this group stand out on the Fringe: a cappella musical theatre. Their harmonies are so well-tuned, I just want more.
 
Barbershopera: The Three Musketeers does follow pretty much the same tried-and-tested formula as the previous three incarnations – but it is a winning formula, and will surely please devoted fans who were missing their annual dose last year. Newcomers will get a chance to catch the bandwagon: with the entire back-story laid out to the tune of a delightful close harmony arrangement of La Marseillaise, I knew in the first five minutes that this would be a wonderful hour's entertainment. It would be fun for all the family, if it weren’t for that pesky 11pm start time.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

Edinburgh 2012 Five Stars

5 stars Comedy
Totally Tom


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The Magical Adventures of Pete Heat


5 stars Theatre
Bye Bye World


5 stars Comedy
Barbershopera: The Three Musketeers


5 stars Comedy
Truth


5 stars Theatre
The House of Shadows


5 stars Cabaret
Briefs


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Made for Each Other - Free


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Tony Law: Nonsense Overdrive


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Ivo Graham and Liam Williams


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Hannibal Buress: Still Saying Stuff


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The Blanks' Big Break


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A Clockwork Orange


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Richard Wiseman: Psychobabble


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Martin Mor: A Man You Donít Meet Everyday


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1984


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Swedenborg, the Devil and Me


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The Trench


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Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut


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Joyced!


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An Evening With Dementia


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Scott Agnew: Tales of the Sauna


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Comedian Dies in the Middle of Joke


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Chris Ramsey: Feeling Lucky


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The Horne Section - Live at the Grand!


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How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found


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The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle


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Jonny Woo: Wonder Woo-Man


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Josie Long: Romance and Adventure


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4.48 Psychosis


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As You Like It


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Appointment With The Wicker Man


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Jessie Cave: Bookworm


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Morgan & West: Lying, Cheating Scoundrels


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Hearts on Fire


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Rainbow


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Chris Dangerfield: Sex Tourist


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Chris McCausland: Not Blind Enough


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Chatroom


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Peacock & Gamble Don't Even Want To Be On Telly Anyway


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I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You


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John Robertson - The Dark Room - Free


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Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and His Singing Tiger