Summer Theatre of New Canaan Doesn’t Reach Necessary Level of Professionalism.

By Rosalind Friedman

My first visit to the Summer Theatre of New Canaan under a white tent was an inauspicious one. I was less than enchanted with its production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Artistic Director, Melody Meitrott Libonati, referred to it in her preface in the playbill, “as you have never seen it before.” Ain’t that the truth! There were distortions and erratic performances that didn’t adhere to or help Shakespeare one bit. As if he needed help!

I decided to give this theatre a second chance, particularly because they were presenting Lerner and Lowe’s “Camelot,” President Kennedy’s fav; this same musical opens for the critics next week at Goodspeed. Of course, the resources and experience of the two theaters are very different. But again, there are always ideas and inspirations that can spill over the footlights that have nothing to do with money.

There are fine individual performances such as Allison Gray, a shimmering soprano, who is superb as Guenevere; Richard Hartley, a finely chiseled Lancelot with a good clear baritone voice in “C’est Moi” and “If Ever I Would leave You.” In a relatively small part—of course, there are no small parts---Emilie Roberts is excellent as Morgan Lefey, the devilish Forest spirit who loves chocolate. She wears her stunning costume by Arthur Oliver with panache. However, while seven out of the main characters are members of Actors Equity, and there are some charming moments, Summer Theatre of New Canaan is decidedly just a community theatre, not reaching the standards of regional theater in Connecticut. In this show, it has employed Adult, Youth and Teen Ensembles, which bring in audience members but bring down the level of professionalism.   

But what of King Arthur? Sean Hannon was directed badly in one of his first numbers, “Camelot.” Flailing and jumping around and acting out every verse as if the audience were deaf, his performance was off-putting. But as the musical progressed he grew into the part of this naïf King who only wants peace instead of war, and whose wife leaves him for a zippier more persistent guy. Over-acting seems to be the problem in Christian Libonati’s interpretation of Mordred, who plays this evil, frightening young man as if he is a merry sprite. 

There is one last performance of Camelot in New Canaan tomorrow, Aug 2ND, WEATHER PERMITTING.

This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS RADIO

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