Camelot: But for the elimination of one character, this is an elegant production.
By Roz Friedman
PROPOSTION: Make sure you get to see Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot,” A Legendary Musical, at the Goodspeed Opera House by September 19. Enhanced by Michael Schweikhardt’s handsome set, lit by John Lasiter, under Rob Ruggiero’s elegant direction, the cast, lavishly costumed by Alejo Vietti, is young and sexy, spirited but sympathetic. It is hard to fill Richard Burton’s shoes, but Bradley Dean comes mighty close, giving such a warm and charming portrayal of King Arthur, it really makes you wonder why Guenevere would ever leave him. Perhaps she should have reconsidered; he can really sing. And what a melodic score it is! And what a story it tells!
A young bride enduring an arranged marriage, played with intelligence and a lovely voice by Erin Davie, Guenevere adjusts to being Queen of Camelot and encourages Arthur to start his one and only great and high–minded idea, the Round Table. His envisioning of a place where Knights can work out their differences instead of killing each other and “unarmed” peasants is very touching. We are still trying to work out that system today.
Along comes Lancelot du Lac; the very tall Maxime de Toledo is this Frenchman, full of himself and Christian piety. He initially annoys everyone including Guenevere; his only loyal friend is Arthur. But there is a turning point when after jousting with and besting Sir Sagramore, Sir Dinadan, and Sir Lionel, he magically brings Sir Lionel back from the dead. The winning ensemble including Queen Guenie, falls to their knees in obeisance. Then the dreaded Mordred, played insidiously well by Adam Shonkwiler, invades the castle with toxic gossip, spreading the word that Guenevere and Lancelot are having an affair. Lancelot’s rendition of “If Ever I Would Leave You,” the song that the late Robert Goulet immortalized forever, is delivered to Guenevere with a great degree of sensuality.
King Arthur is faced with a moral challenge. Without the help of Merlyn (clearly portrayed by Herman Petras), his ancient mentor and advisor, he must decide: should he follow the wishes of the court, punish his wife by fire for her treason, or should he let her go, and in doing so destroy his Round Table rules. Of course, he errs on the side of love and compassion. She leaves for a nunnery; Lancelot runs for his life, while Arthur wearily dons his armor for war.
Goodspeed’s production has chosen to eliminate a pivotal character, Morgen LeFay; I personally feel uncomfortable that they have chosen to change anything in a revival of a classic of this high a caliber. That aside, this beautiful production brings a tear to our eye, when Arthur tells little Tom of Warwick (Charles Everett Crocco): Don’t let it be forgot/That once there was a spot/ For one brief shining moment/ That was known as Camelot.
It will play through Sept 19. at Goodspeed Opera House.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO