If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
A QUALITY "CAMELOT" AT GOODSPEED MUSICALS
For those keeping count, it is now three for three for director Rob Ruggiero at Goodspeed Musicals. Mr. Ruggiero continues to impress, taking musicals that I, frankly, never felt strongly about one way or another and somehow making me a fan. It began with "Big River" a few years back, followed by last season's "1776," and continues now with the theatre's current offering of Lerner and Lowe's "Camelot". The director has put a fresh coat of polish on this popular warhorse - a musical that, in my humble opinion, could use as much help as possible.
In the original 1960 Broadway production (starring Robert Goulet, Julie Andrews and Richard Burton), "Camelot" overcame lackluster reviews to be a popular and Tony Award winning hit (the cast certainly didn't hurt). Mostly it seemed to suffer from comparisons to Lerner and Loewe's previous hit, "My Fair Lady". Suffice it to say "Camelot", with its extended dull book based on the legend of King Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table, was no "My Fair Lady". But, in all fairness, any musical that includes such classic songs as "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood", If Ever I Would Leave You", "The Lusty Month of May" and the title tune, can't be all bad. And in Mr. Ruggiero's loving, well-paced and well-cast revival, it's even better than that.
Both Bradley Dean as King Arthur and Maxime de Toledo as Lancelot are polished performers of the highest caliber. Mr. Dean brings a youthful innocence to his Arthur that grows in stature and pathos as the story proceeds. His jaunty rendition of "I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight" is a singular delight. Mr. de Toledo is equally fine, blessed with the requisite good looks and strapping figure of a knight for the ages. His vocals are all pleasing, especially the comic "C'est Moi," and he also manages to find new depths of meaning to the familiar "If Ever I Would Leave You".
Marissa McGowan is a new addition to the company, replacing Erin Davie in the pivotal role of Guenevere. If Ms. McGowan was new to the part, there was no evidence in the matinee performance I caught. She glowed with spirited life and sexual zest as she made poignant sense of a woman truly divided by her love for two men. Adam Shonkwiler, in the brief but memorable role of the vile Mordred, makes for a perfectly nasty villain and Ronn Carroll puts his mark on the standard comic relief role of Pellinore.
The gorgeous costuming by Alejo Vietti impresses throughout, employing rich fabrics which look totally lived-in and not off-the-rack. Stunning tapestries highlight Michael Schweikardt's lovely scenic design which also includes a beautiful grand curtain effectively lit by John Lasiter. All and all, a most happy revival in East Haddam.
"Camelot" continues at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut through September 19th. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.873.8668 or visit: www.goodspeed.org.
This review originally appeared in Elm City Newspapers 8.26.09