BWW Reviews: TUTS' CAMELOT is Mesmerizingly Regal
Back to the Article
by David Clarke
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe may be best known for MY FAIR LADY, their 1956 musical adaptation of Pygmalion. The show was an incredible success and left anticipation high for another Lerner & Loewe musical. After tumultuous writing, casting, and rehearsing processes their follow up opened on Broadway in 1960. The musical, simply titled CAMELOT, was based on T. H. White's The Once and Future King. It opened to mixed reviews, but the Original Cast Album LP was America's best selling LP for a solid 60 weeks. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it was publicized that the original cast recording had been a favorite of the Kennedy family in while in the White House, forever tying Lerner & Loewe's CAMELOT to the glamorous, media culture Camelot era of the Kennedy family.
The classic musical tells the story of King Arthur's creation of the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur is not good at thinking for himself, so he heavily relies on his teacher and confidant Merlyn. Merlyn lives backwards through time, so he remembers the future. He foretells that Nimue will capture him and leave him unable to help Arthur make decisions. He tries to warn Arthur of Lancelot, but he forgets the future. Arthur is left lost without his confidant, but infatuated with a new idea for chivalry. He creates the Round Table, which draws knights from near and far to his service. Pure of body and soul, Lancelot journeys from France and is immediately enraptured with Arthur's wife, Guenevere. Guenevere is torn between loyalty to her husband and her romantic feelings for Lancelot, which threaten to destroy Camelot and the Round Table.
Theatre Under the Stars' star-studded production of CAMELOT is dutifully directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford. His cast successfully keeps the plot moving forward at a comfortable pace, and keeps the audience entertained through some of the longer book scenes written by Alan Jay Lerner. Likewise, Richard Stafford's choreography entertains whether the song and dance numbers are short or lengthy. Richard Stafford's vision for CAMELOT transports audiences back to a time when Broadway was not ruled by spectacle and technology, but to a time when sheer talent ruled the stage.
Starring as King Arthur, Robert Petkoff is humorous and relatable as The Commoner turned king. His inability to be decisive and his affable thoughtlessness win the audience over time and time again. His bright and powerful singing voice is perfectly used to add striking clarity to the score, and makes the final reprise of "Camelot" particularly impactful.
As the love-torn Guenevere, Margaret Robinson is lithe, sprightly, beautiful, and pristinely charming. While some of her numbers come across as dated due to the inherent sexism written into the lyrics, she brings bubbly and shimmering life to each number she sings. Her "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood" and "I Loved You Once in Silence" are spellbinding.
Sean MacLaughlin's Lancelot is conceited, arrogant, and so caught up on preserving his purity that he is rather wooden and emotionless in affect. The moments where he lets loose and emotionally breaks are some of the evenings most captivating and thrilling parts of the show. The audience is silent as he prays for a miracle over the body of Sir Lionel and his rendition of "If Ever I Would Leave You" is powerful and enthralling.
Pellinore is expertly realized and fantastically played by Tony Sheldon. Personally, his times on stage were my absolute favorite moments of the entire production. He has an impeccable sense of comedic timing, and makes the bumbling and often confused Pellinore charismatic, magnanimous, memorable, and deftly comical. Having created a name for himself in Australia, it will be exciting and refreshing to chart his rise to stardom in the United States. Furthermore, one can only hope that he enjoyed performing in Houston enough to make numerous return engagements to our stages.
As the evil Mordred, Adam Shonkwiler is consummately malignant. He expertly portrays the slithering, slimy, underhanded grasps for power contrived by his character. Leading the knights in a rousing rendition of "Fie on Goodness," he brilliantly shines as the immoral and depraved villain.
Charles Krohn's Merlyn is delightfully eccentric and mysterious. His performance was probably my second favorite of the evening. He also has a dexterous sense for timing and comedy, which brings buoyant and ingenious life to the amicable character.
Patricia Noonan's Nimue is haunting and vivaciously sinister. She dazzles in her rendition of "Follow Me," making the audience clamor for more scenes with Nimue.
Cole Ryden's portrayal of Squire Dap is beguiling and he is unflinchingly loyal to Lancelot. Despite his minimal time on stage, he makes his character both believable and memorable.
David Grant's Sir Sagramore, Leisa Mather's Lady Anne, Michael Andrako's Sir Dinadan, Alexander Levin's Sir Lionel, Scott Foneska's Tom of Warwick, and the remainder of the ensemble do excellent jobs bringing the show to lustrous life.
Fight Choreography by Jeff Wisnoski is thrilling and electrifying. The cast performs and executes each clash of sword, stick, shield, and body with practiced meticulousness, ensuring that each fight looks realistic and not staged.
John Iachovelli's Scenic Design with pieces on loan from Utah Festival Opera Company is astoundingly beautiful. Using majestic and lavish flies, he expertly captures that old-time Broadway feel and the regal elements of the show.
Marcy Froelich's Costume Design featuring costumes originally designed and built for McCoy Rigby and pieces designed and built by Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre utilizes a lot of material that has the stately shine associated with velvet and velour. Each piece looks nice in presentation, perfectly representing what our imagination expects of fashions from the Middle Ages. The only down side is that the knees on King Arthur's costumes already show signs of wear on opening night.
Richard Winkler's Lighting Design magnificently blends color washes, gobos representing tree branches, and projections of clouds to masterfully illustrate ambience and showcase mood and tone. The lighting effects are immaculately designed for the production and look splendid in action.
Christopher "Kit" Bond's Sound Design balances everything perfectly. It has been a while since I saw a show at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and heard such a precise and perfected blend of dialogue, vocal, and orchestral music. Nothing is misheard or unheard. Every sound, no matter the point of origin, is perfectly leveled and blended, keeping the volume comfortably where it should be.
Theatre Under the Stars' production of Lerner & Loewe's CAMELOT is mesmerizingly regal and presents the material with sincerity and pizzazz. Some of Alan Jay Lerner's book scenes and Frederick Loewe's musical numbers seem a bit long and sometimes repetitive, but the cast and crew perform so magnificently that the audience enjoys the performance from beginning to end.
CAMELOT runs on the Sarofim stage at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts through February 3. 2013. For more information and tickets, please visit http://www.tuts.com or call (713) 558 - 8887.
All photos by Bruce Bennett. Courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.