Nancy Sasso Janis
The 2014/2015 Throne Games LLC/Phoenix Entertainment National Tour of Lerner & Loewe’s 'Camelot' is billed as "reimagining" the classic tale of King Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot. As Tuesday's opening night at the Bushnell in Hartford was the first time I have ever seen this musical on stage, I won't try to guess what exactly has been reimagined, but it did seem to be a fresh look at this ultimate period piece by the authors of 'Brigadoon,' 'My Fair Lady,' and 'Gigi.'
'Camelot' features a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe and is based on the King Arthur legend adapted from the T.H. White novel The Once and Future King. Short version: Merlin teaches King Arthur, who marries the beautiful Guenevere. Arthur rules the mythical kingdom of Camelot with new ideals bringing peace to the land. The dashing (and sometimes annoying) Sir Lancelot joins the Knights of the Round Table and becomes part of a royal love triangle. Then there is the nasty Mordred, the king's illegitimate son (played gleefully by Jon McHatton) who does his best to bring down the kingdom. It is all very dramatic (the complete opposite of 'Spamalot) and doesn't end well.
I expected it to be the "sweeping tale of passion, pageantry and betrayal" that won four Tony Awards and ran for over 800 performances back in 1960, and it was. All the classic songs were there, including “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” "How to Handle a Woman," "The Lusty Month of May" and the title song, “Camelot.”
However, the scenic design by Kevin Depinet included a decidedly modern metal tree and the musical arrangements had some modern touches. Magnificent period costumes and the set and gleaming swords lit to perfection by Mike Baldassari made it all look beautiful. A small group of musicians made it sound quite beautiful as well; special mention to Jeffrey Snider on percussion. The interior of the castle was especially effective and the staging of the jousts scene by director Michael McFadden did not disappoint.
The cast all turned in strong performances and had glorious voices for singing this rich musical score. On opening night, the role of King Arthur was played by Adam Grabau's understudy Troy Bruchwalski, and except for a couple line issues, he performed admirably. Mark Poppleton played well the magical Merlyn (in an owl inspired robe) and King Pellinore. Tim Rogan was a fine Lancelot and Mr. Devlin was the perfect villain in classic black as Mordred. Local connection: Brandon Cordeiro, who was a very strong comic force as Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, the head Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter in TriArts Sharon Playhouse presentation of 'Spamalot' (really) played Squire Dap here.
As Guenevere, Kate Turner had a lovely soprano voice and definitely wore the best gowns, although the gowns worn by the female members of the talented ensemble were gorgeous. Kudos to local young actor Ian Rothauser of Newingtown who came onstage for the final scene as Tom of Warwick.
'Camelot ' runs April 21-26, 2015 at The Bushnell’s Mortensen Hall as part of the 2014-2015 Bushnell Broadway Series