By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Don’t let it be forgot
                                                                That once there was a spot
                                                                For one brief, shining moment
                                                                That was known as Camelot

 It is said that president John F. Kennedy loved this Lerner and Loewe 1960 musical and was very fond of the above quote.   The handsome, young president and his charming wife and children captured the public’s admiration and thus their White House occupancy was dubbed “Camelot” by the media.   However, our very troubled nation was far from being an idealized Camelot and when the President was killed, ironically, the show’s words proved true.  Our nation was left with just the fantasy – the wistful ideal of that “brief, shining moment” that never really was, the echoes of King Arthur’s youthful hopes, and we wondered what might have been had Jack Kennedy and his brother Robert had lived longer lives.    

Today, the hope for a better world continues with another youthful president and his family in the White House.  Will there be a new Camelot on the horizon?  Whatever you believe to be true, everyone needs a lift from our current troubles and Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s (STONC) director, Melody Libonati, offers us this meaningful musical just at the right time.
If you love beautiful songs and jousting knights, this is the family show that delights.  

But be forewarned, at 2 1/2 hours, with one intermission, the musical can be a bit too long and talky -- a fault that was noted by critics when it first opened starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet.  Yet the Broadway production won four Tony Awards.   This critic notes that there are a lot of complexities to cover while depicting a philosopher king and his humanly, imperfect court, and everything cannot be told in song.   In order to further appreciate the wise messages in the dialogue, it doesn’t hurt to refresh your memory about the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  The historical background that inspired the tale is also interesting.

The meaning behind the tale of “Camelot” is the uplifting hope of Mankind for a perfect society and a peaceful, harmonious world.  King Arthur envisions a world without boundaries and therefore no conflicts and no wars.  Even the natural environment, its climate and weather conform to the pleasantries of his ideals.  To his disappointment, he finds that human nature is imperfect, his wife is in love with someone else, there is discord among his knights and throughout his kingdom and unexpected, evil elements are difficult forces to contend with.   And, still the King dreams on about a shining future in a place called “Camelot.” 
Unlike last year’s full-scale production of the company’s “Music Man” at Stamford’s Palace Theatre, “Camelot” is being held under a tent and the audience spreads out on the adjoining lawn at Waveny Park.   Therefore, everything is set on a much smaller scale.  For example, two towers at either end of the small stage represent a majestic castle on a hill.  A single tree represents a garden, a few chairs indicate the interior scenes and instead of a backdrop, the natural trees of the park are seen through parted curtains.   There is a small, live orchestra and the rest is imagination. 

The main highlights of this production are the scenes where Christian Libonati and Emilie Roberts play the parts of marvelously wicked “Mordred” and “Morgan LeFey.”  Libonati’s sneering face and pliant body language is truly fearful.  Robert’s shredded costume, topped by an artfully, mysterious headdress, reflects terrifying evilness as this wonderful, character actress sweeps across the stage in a jealous rage.

 Richard Hartley’s rich voice is very impressive as he sings and acts the handsome, fearless “Lancelot.”  Roland Llewellyn as the grey bearded “Merlin” and “Pellinore” is your typical wise grandfather.   The part of “Guenevere,” is royally handled by Allison Gray.  The actress has a beautiful singing voice and although she stumbled over a few words of dialogue during the performance we attended at the beginning of the show’s run, her delivery is excellent.  Gray could have used more make-up to enhance her facial features, which were washed out by the stage lighting.  Sean Hannon plays a sympathetic “King Arthur.”  Hannon’s hazy, tenor voice is difficult to understand and unfortunately, this makes him inappropriate for a kingly role.
All in all, the STONC’s production of “Camelot” is energetic and the music and songs are lighthearted and delightful.  The show is packed with acting, singing and dancing children.   There are sword fights with knights in armor and dainty princesses galore.  Your kids will enjoy identifying themselves with the cast.

Camelot continues at Waveny Park in New Canaan, until August 2.  Call the Box Office at (203) 966-4634 for more information.


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