BWW Review: CAMELOT in Westport
Don't be scared by that word, because David Lee's adaptation did for the beloved show what Ingmar Bergman did for Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House with his version, Nora (which played at the Westport Country Playhouse two years ago). This show is pared down to the essentials, with fewer characters and lower production costs, but it is as bold as it is romantic.
The show opens somewhere, probably in Africa, with Tom (Sana Sarr), a young boy with a huge imagination, sitting in front of the stage as tribal music plays. Revelers sing and dance against a background that evokes an image of a huge but empty barn. After all, the legend of King Arthur is just that - a legend, and the people in the story may or may not have been real. But their glorious story of love, passion, revenge, valor, and courage is universal and timeless, and the juxtaposition of Tom's innocence and humble life with complications of the royals and noblemen is compelling.
Lee's book cuts out the roles of Morgen Le Fay, Merlin, Pellinore, Sir Ozanna, Nimue, and Lady Catherine. In all honesty, they are superfluous. The characters and their stories remain strong, and Arthur's inner struggles make him more convincing as the right candidate for king (with or without the sword of Excalibur). While the three principles, King Arthur (Robert Sean Leonard), Guenevere (Britney Coleman), and Lancelot (Stephen Mark Lukas) are the backbone of the show, the rest of the characters in this production are unforgettable. Patrick Andrews balances a captivating personality and vindictiveness perfectly as Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son. Mike Evariste plays Sir Dinadon with a magnetic personality and a rich singing voice. Jon-Michael Reese dazzles as Sir Sagramore. Brian Owen steals the scene as Sir Lionel in the song "Then You May Take Me to The Fair." Michael De Souza more than holds his own in the smaller role of the squire. How did the backbone of the show fare? Coleman, a Westport Country Playhouse veteran has a glorious voice and is credible as Guinevere matures from a giddy girl to a woman who is torn between two lovers and regrets her decisions. Lukas is correctly initially insufferable as the egotistical Sir Lancelot and grows sympathetic as he falls in love with Guenevere. Leonard is Richard Burton's successor as King Arthur. He has it all - the wisdom, the charm, the air of nobility, the poignancy of the king whose love for his wife and his dream for democracy shattered. Oh, and he has the charisma we expect of the legendary king.
Lamos's direction is as imaginative as Lee's book adaptation. Connor Gallagher's choreography is superb, especially the joust in which Lancelot creams his competitors on Michael Yeargan's marvelous minimal set. Wade Labuissonniere's costumes are beautiful and complement both the set and the Robert Wierzel's perfect lighting. Music Director Wayne Barker returns with a terrific eight-piece band which plays Steve Orich's new orchestrations for the show.
Camelot is rarely performed because traditional productions have given the show the nickname "Costalot." But Lee's version is superior anyway. Don't wait for Tom to tell the world about it. See it now through November 5. The Westport Country Playhouse is located at 25 Powers Court in Westport.
Call the box-office at 203-227-4177 to book seats or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.