Camelot is billed as “the story as you’ve never seen it before,” which perfectly describes this new production of Lerner and Loewe’s acclaimed musical fable of King Arthur’s court. It’s at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford. Connecticut through April 26.
This stunningly beautiful production will continue its national tour in Bangor, Maine; New Brunswick, New Jersey, Worcester, Massachusetts, and beyond. It’s doubtful that this gorgeous and grand spectacle will ever find a home anywhere with as much majesty as the classic Art Deco interior of the Bushnell’s Mortensen Hall. www.bushnell.org
It’s a shame, really, that this musical fable will only grace Connecticut’s premier performing arts center for only “one brief shining moment.” This legendary tale of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table won four Tony Awards on Broadway in 1960– including best actor (Richard Burton), best costumes, scenery and musical direction.
This current production, with Kevin Depinet’s breath-taking scenic design and Paul Tazewell’s stunning medieval costumes, match (and possibly surpass) the achievement of the original Tony Award-winning designs. And Tony-nominee Mike Baldassari’s spot-on lighting reaches that same level of excellence in this national tour. (You can catch a glimpse of this dazzling production on the embedded video link and slide show.)
While the cast will not be eligible for Tony Awards, the earnestness and enthusiasm with which they play their roles is a joy from start to finish. Only the lack of strong direction by Michael McFadden keeps the show from achieving Broadway-quality.
It’s the legend of King Arthur, who brings new ideas of chivalry and justice to his kingdom by creating the Knights of The Round Table, then has his dreams destroyed by the romance between his Queen Guinevere and the dashing Sir Lancelot, his most trusted knight. King Arthur’s illegitimate son, Mordred, takes advantage of the triangle in an attempt to bring down King Arthur and his kingdom. Chaos and war are the rewards for the passion of the doomed lovers.
As in a Broadway dream, Troy Bruchwalski, understudy for Adam Grabau, who usually plays Arthur, stepped into the role at the last moment before opening and press night in Hartford. He triumphed with his youthful vigor and likeability and gave a realistic interpretation to the part of the King, who in the original book is also a dashing young man. Mary McNulty, lovely and regal as Guinevere, was especially delightful in “The Lusty Month of May” and in her comic duet with Troy, when they asked the musical question “What Would the Simple Folk Do?”
As Lancelot, the stage wasn’t big enough for the magnetic presence of Tim Rogan, who, as the French knight, came on with an ego as big as Hartford when he exercised his bragging rights with “C’est Moi.” Calling himself “the godliest man I know,” Lancelot swaggered convincingly. His beautiful ballad, “If Ever I Would Leave You” was flawed only by the ego of the musical conductor, Marshall Keating, who decided to have a loud and obnoxious cello dirge drown out the captivating singing of Mr. Rogan.
Also notable in the cast is Kasidy Devlin as the vile, scheming and nasty-piece-of-work Mordred. As villains go, there were a few boos at curtain call – not at Mr. Devlin – but for his evil characterization. His rambunctious “The Seven Deadly Virtues” number illustrated the mind-set of malicious Mordred, the devil personified in the land of virtue and chivalry.
With pageantry to match the surrounding grandeur of the Bushnell itself, and an ensemble cast of talented singers, this Camelot is unique in that it leaves an impression of a classic American musical in the guise of grand opera. A spectacle to behold, its limited run doesn’t do justice to what could be if this production had more time to work its magic on one great stage – rather than rushing from theater to theater in an effort to pursue a quick, frantic national tour. www.camelottour.com
For those who got to see Camelot at the Bushnell it was truly “the story as you’ve never seen it before.” With a little tweaking, this could be the definitive Round Table tale.
By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle