King Arthur Holds Court at Goodspeed


By Marlene S. Gaylinn

In case you’re wondering why Connecticut is swamped with several versions of “Camelot” this season, it’s because the musical brings an appealing message of hope for the future – and that’s just what everyone needs, including the theatres.  Therefore, like Santa Claus appearing at several places at once, red flags are flying from the rooftop of the Goodspeed Opera House, announcing the arrival of King Arthur’s court to this historic theatre as well.

The legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is about an idealistic king who dreams of a peaceful world where everyone gets along, countries have no boundaries and even the seasons and climate cooperate to make life perfect.   King Arthur’s hopes are shattered when his wife and his most trusted knight fall in love, his court is plagued by jealousy, his knights are rowdy and discontent, neighbors threaten the borders of his kingdom and Evil stirs the overflowing pot of trouble.

King Arthur was royally played by Bradley Dean. He took command of the stage as if it really was his kingdom.  Dean sang both majestically and tenderly, depending on the mood.  On the night we attended, taking the role of Queen Guenevere was understudy, Marissa McGowan.  This dainty young girl has the looks and temperament of a fairytale queen plus a fine voice to match.  Tall, dark and dashing, Maxime de Toledo was a knightly and sensitive Lancelot who towered above the rest of the court.  Herman Petras stood in for the comic role of Pellinore.  The actor also played the wise magician, Merlyn.  The sneering, evildoer Mordred was Adam Shonwiler.  His characterization is certainly someone that you would love to hate.

If you love beautiful songs, this show will send you home humming. “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight,” and other gems are played by a live orchestra under the direction of Michael O’Flarity.  Fabulous costumes by Alejo Vietti featured flowing dresses, fur, leather and lots of armor. 
Unfortunately, there was little dancing and we hardly got to admire Mordred’s mother in her outstanding costume until the curtain calls at the end.

The set was a little disappointing.  The glorious splendor of King Arthur’s court was played in front of a ceiling to floor stonewall  – which would have been nice surrounding my fireplace at home.  Except for some mood lighting, it appeared as if the entire play was taking place in an enclosed dungeon.  The simple scene changes included a table situated on a platform, a few chairs and a bed.  Occasionally, several panels composed of large, square designs, slid across the foreground. These sliding flats delineated the outdoor scenes and the actors tramped between the panels as if they were navigating a construction site.  The sparse setting may have served to focus attention on the actors but this critic was expecting some “Harry Potter” magical moments.

While 12-year-old Ben Swimmer effectively plays the role of a lost boy and children will enjoy seeing live knights in armor, the play may be a bit complicated for youngsters to follow easily.   It pays to re-read the legend of King Arthur beforehand.

“Camelot” is highly enjoyable entertainment.   It contains great acting and singing and it’s worth a trip from anywhere to see this professional production at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.

Camelot” runs until September 19.  Box Office:  1-800-873-8868.

Marlene S. Gaylinn is a member of Connecticut Critics Circle and can be reached at:  gaylinnmar33@yahoo.com


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