CAMELOT – Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner; Music by Frederick Loewe (Adapted by David Lee and Steve Orich); Directed by Pat Payne. Produced by Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown) through October 25. Tickets available at 970-744-3747 or ColoradoCandlelight.com.
In 1961 when the original Broadway production premiered, it was jokingly referred to as CameLOTS because of its ponderous production and four hour length. Rest easy. This production could be nicknamed CameLESS because of the excellent adaptation by David Lee, the show runner for FRASIER and WINGS. He learned the value of less is more in his two decades of writing for half hour TV sitcoms and brings that gift for getting to the heart of the story with ease and efficiency to this “new” version of CAMELOT. All of the music you have come to know and love is still in place; only two songs (which you won’t miss) have been deleted with the comic song “Fie on Goodness” put back in.
To cut the production down to its basic story of three young people being in love, Lee lost much of the Nimue and Merlin aspects of the story. Starting as a group of people gathering at a country fair to tell the well-known tale of Arthur and Guinevere, the story is acted out on a single set with moving parts which allows the plot to progress quickly. Costumes denote the townspeople from royalty with pieces added or taken off to create smooth character changes. Phil Forman and his four piece orchestra sit behind the curtains and get a lot of music out of that small a group. Their support of the actors is to be commended.
An all too familiar story of real life running headlong into the ideals of youthful enthusiasm. An arranged marriage turns out to be a winning proposition for Arthur and Guinevere when they fall in love at first sight. In spite of Guinevere’s romantic desires for knights that joust for her favor and kith that will kill their kin for her, she and Arthur join together to rule with justice determined by laws that are the same for everyone instead of the richest or the most war-like winning every argument. Unfortunately, she learns that the romance of battle is quite different from the reality when it actually starts to happen. She and Arthur both learn that no matter how carefully you plan everything, you sometimes have to face the fact that people are not perfect and may weaken in the face of temptation.
Their story starts to fall apart with the arrival of Lancelot from France who has heard of Arthur’s promotion of chivalry as a way of life and comes to join the Knights of the Round Table. In spite of their early animosity, Lance and Ginny fall in love and must fight their feelings for each other to honor Arthur. Of course, there is a bad guy – Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son – who arrives to cause trouble. All the noble ideals they were trying to uphold fall apart under the weight of human frailty. But for one brief shining moment . . .
Bob Hoppe who is usually cast as the second banana or the comic relief in a musical rises to the occasion of filling Arthur’s shoes and ideals. He is authentic as a young man scared to death of this woman he’s never met on the eve of his marriage and equally as authentic as an adult whose heart is broken. Susanna Ballenski Housesheldt – last seen as Lucy (the elegant one) in JEKYLL AND HYDE – is a beautiful Guinevere, also moving easily from flirty young bride to saddened and weary adult. Scott Hurst, Jr. as the arrogant confident Lancelot delights, but also brings Lance’s softer side forward. He absolutely nails Lance’s big song – “If Ever I Would Leave You” – and had the women in the audience swooning. Robert Goulet wishes he could sing that well. The additional five in the cast make up the remaining knights, townspeople, and on-stage hands to move things around. Cole Emarine playing the dastardly Mordred gives his usual over-the-top portrayal and doubles as the show’s choreographer. Cole’s dance talents shine especially in the second act with the choreography for the Knights singing “The Seven Deadly Virtues” and “Fie on Goodness.”
All care has been given in making the Candlelight a safe place for you to enjoy theatre again. The kitchen continues to turn out an excellent meal. I miss being able to say Hello to the actors as they serve you and after the show – but, other than that, it is the Candlelight of old.
A WOW factor of 8.5!