BWW Review: CAMELOT at Candlelight Music Theatre
After a 3-month hiatus to create a new stage at the 70-year-old barn, Candlelight opens their second season with CAMELOT. Congratulations must be extended to their non-profit board President Tom Hornung and major contributor State Senator Cathy Cloutier who called in all their chips to fund the $300,000.00 project.
As the mystical, magical - and wildly hirsute - Merlin (Brian McCole) might have cautioned, "the devil is in the details". Some the technical aspects that create a tight show were lacking in this production. The first issue that was noticeably glaring were the shoes of the men. Arthur (Paul McElwee) opens the show in strapped boots with rubber soles. Across the board the men were wearing a smorgasbord of faux leather and suede contemporary footwear. Only one of the knights, Dan Healy, had anything slightly resembling leather boots representative of the 6th century England. When the knights bowed before Arthur, their textured rubber soles were screaming Kohl's and Goodwill.
Costumes were another problem. Normally a strong point at Candlelight, this 'actor' in any production appeared to be thrown together at the last minute. The men suffered the most. When Lancelot first appears, a rip in his chain mail attire was evident. There was no theme or consistency in the costuming. Arthur's gold outfit in Act II looked more from the court of Louis XIV than the court of the Round Table. There was no glitter or pageantry in any of the outfits save for two worn by Guenevere (Sophie Jones) in Act II. And even one of them had been lengthened at the bottom by 2 inches with a totally different cloth color than the gown itself.
And, the men's hair. The majority of men with hair had, once again, contemporary hair styles. One doubts men 1000 years ago parted their locks. The very charming and convincing Tom of Warwick (Luke Plunkett) looked like he had just come from Great Clips.
In this legendary love story a director seeks chemistry amongst the three leads. Aside from Jones' stunning performance as the Queen caught between two she loved and revered, there were few sparks. McElwee played Arthur too wimpish by two. Goodness. He IS the King! His singing voice is such that it might have been a thought to have him talk/sing more, as did Burton in the original stage play. Lancelot (Stephen Dagrosa) needs to display more passion in the scenes with Ginny. We understand Lance is uptight. But there must be energy. I saw little in his eyes that displayed deep love for the Queen. His "If Ever I Would Leave You", one of the great love songs in Broadway lore, was excellent.
Mordred (Daniel Irwin) was the Machiavellian, manipulative character we hoped for. We saw in his mind the machinations in his malevolent turn of "The Seven Deadly Virtues".
Pellinore (Barry Gomolka) does bumbling quite well and he was a comic relief. It would have been nice to see him in a wig, as the character is generally played.
And now to the star of the show. Newcomer Sophie Jones was magnificent. Beautiful look, beautiful presence, beautiful voice. From her first "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood", she breathed life in the production and made better actors of McElwee, Dagrosa and all around her. After that opening, Aisle Say followed her throughout the night...to get a sense of how excellent she really is. Never once did she slide out of character. Her reactions when Lance brought the knight back to life and in the final scene where she comes in as a nun were heartfelt, provocative and profound. This woman is going places. To a degree, seeing a 'star is born' is worth the price of admission.
Note: On Jones' web site under 'Special Skills', it lists "proficient in making my face look like a thumb". At age 8 my son Grant played Randolph in Candlelight's BIRDIE. He was around a lot of teenagers. One taught him to whistle by inverting both hands under the lips and blowing. I remember saying to Grant at the time, "well, there's one takeaway from the show!" So, I say to the two kids cast as Tom of Warwick, hunker down with Sophie backstage and with diligent rehearsal, you too may pick up a bizarre talent that can be employed at every social gathering the remainder of your life.
Through April 23 CandlelightTheatreDelaware.org 302.475.2313
Next up is CRAZY FOR YOU