Charm Conquers All: CAMELOT

Photo credit: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures

Photo credit: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures

Presented by New Repertory Theatre
Books and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Lowe
Original production directed and staged by Moss Heart
Based on “The Once and Future King” by TH White
Directed and choreographed by Russell Garrett
Musical direction by David McGrory
Dance Captain – Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Fight Captain – Michael J Borges

Nov. 23 – Dec. 22, 2013
Charles Mosesian Theater
Arsenal Center for the Arts
Watertown, MA
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(Watertown) The Director’s Notes by Russell Garrett are excellent. An audience member desiring nostalgic information correlating Camelot to the anniversary of JFK’s assassination will be well pleased. For this purpose, I will not dwell on the JFK’s Camelot as Mr. Garrett has already done an excellent job of doing so in the programme. If you’d like to know more, see the show.

Considering the weight that the Kennedy Family carries in the US, one might expect Camelot to be a more serious show. Lerner and Lowe’s fluffy hit does examine some heavy issues but the majority of the script and lyrics are intended to entertain rather than educate. The sugary sweet production by New Rep does not fail in its mission to cheer Baby Boomers and to indoctrinate younger generations in classic musical theatre.

Camelot the castle was not included in the original Arthurian legend. It was added as the home of chivalry and justice in the 12th century and came to symbolize all that is good and right in politics. It was perfect whereas its inhabitants were not. The legend centers on King Arthur (Benjamin Evett), his fair wife Guenevere/Guinevere (Erica Spyres) and The Knights of the Round Table. The musical focuses on the love triangle between King, Queen and Sir Lancelot the Lusty (Marc Koeck). Lancelot woos Guenevere. Guenevere relents and the kingdom (using their affair as a scapegoat) falls.

Overall, the accent work was consistent if not accurate. If the accents weren’t native to England, Scotland (tsk, tsk Nick Sulfaro) or France then perhaps the unmapped Camelot exists somewhere between all three. It would certainly explain the variations in dialect.

Lerner and Lowe paint Guenevere and Arthur as average people born to royalty with above average luck. The king and queen might have superior job titles but they are still human. Spyres and Evett play their roles with realistic, modern humanity in unrealistic circumstances. They turn to each other for compassion, moral support and understanding proving that the most important aspects relationship remain the same regardless of time and individual.

Devotees to the Andrews and Burton recordings may contend with the vocals but to these ears they Spyres and Evett sounded equally as lovely.

Koeck’s Lancelot is dashing, pure and handsome. He sings a lovely ditty, strikes a handsome pose in tight tights and literally performs miracles. Guenevere didn’t stand a chance.

Garret largely reveals the inherent charm of the production through uncomplicated blocking. This gives the talents and charisma of his leads plenty of room to maneuver their characters with sincerity in smaller scenes. The actors expressed a freedom in their movements across the stage and with each other that hints at organic play. It looks as if Garrett trusts his cast and it’s a compliment to the audience that he allows us to watch them interact so freely.

Larger scenes lacked originality and dragged. The same simplicity that worked so well in the intimate scenes between 4 or fewer characters was not effective in dance or fight scenes. The dance choreography was quaint but did not suit the cast’s limits. Despite the efforts of the cast, the fight scenes were not believable. The cast was so cautious in their exertions that the audience’s disbelief wasn’t just suspended; it was revoked.

David McGrory’s musical direction is exceptional. The cast and the orchestra worked in tandem to provide the music for the production. The ebb and flow of voice to instrument was nearly seamless.

Lastly, Camelot is long. This isn’t the fault of the cast of the creative team. It is the fault of Lerner and Lowe who wrote damn the thing. Audience members should prepare themselves mentally for a lengthy sit by hydrating or dehydrating appropriately. The effort will be worth your while as you take in the charm of this vintage hit.

 

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