BWW Reviews: TUTS' CAMELOT is Mesmerizingly Regal
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe may be best known for MY FAIR LADY, their 1956 musical adaptation of Pygmalion. The show was an incredible success and left anticipation high for another Lerner & Loewe musical. After tumultuous writing, casting, and rehearsing processes their follow up opened on Broadway in 1960. The musical, simply titled CAMELOT, was based on T. H. White's The Once and Future King. It opened to mixed reviews, but the Original Cast Album LP was America's best selling LP for a solid 60 weeks. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it was publicized that the original cast recording had been a favorite of the Kennedy family in while in the White House, forever tying Lerner & Loewe's CAMELOT to the glamorous, media culture Camelot era of the Kennedy family.
The classic musical tells the story of King Arthur's creation of the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur is not good at thinking for himself, so he heavily relies on his teacher and confidant Merlyn. Merlyn lives backwards through time, so he remembers the future. He foretells that Nimue will capture him and leave him unable to help Arthur make decisions. He tries to warn Arthur of Lancelot, but he forgets the future. Arthur is left lost without his confidant, but infatuated with a new idea for chivalry. He creates the Round Table, which draws knights from near and far to his service. Pure of body and soul, Lancelot journeys from France and is immediately enraptured with Arthur's wife, Guenevere. Guenevere is torn between loyalty to her husband and her romantic feelings for Lancelot, which threaten to destroy Camelot and the Round Table.
Theatre Under the Stars' star-studded production of CAMELOT is dutifully directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford. His cast successfully keeps the plot moving forward at a comfortable pace, and keeps the audience entertained through some of the longer book scenes written by Alan Jay Lerner. Likewise, Richard Stafford's choreography entertains whether the song and dance numbers are short or lengthy. Richard Stafford's vision for CAMELOT transports audiences back to a time when Broadway was not ruled by spectacle and technology, but to a time when sheer talent ruled the stage.
Starring as King Arthur, Robert Petkoff is humorous and relatable as The Commoner turned king. His inability to be decisive and his affable thoughtlessness win the audience over time and time again. His bright and powerful singing voice is perfectly used to add striking clarity to the score, and makes the final reprise of "Camelot" particularly impactful.
As the love-torn Guenevere, Margaret Robinson is lithe, sprightly, beautiful, and pristinely charming. While some of her numbers come across as dated due to the inherent sexism written into the lyrics, she brings bubbly and shimmering life to each number she sings. Her "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood" and "I Loved You Once in Silence" are spellbinding.
Sean MacLaughlin's Lancelot is conceited, arrogant, and so caught up on preserving his purity that he is rather wooden and emotionless in affect. The moments where he lets loose and emotionally breaks are some of the evenings most captivating and thrilling parts of the show. The audience is silent as he prays for a miracle over the body of Sir Lionel and his rendition of "If Ever I Would Leave You" is powerful and enthralling.
Pellinore is expertly realized and fantastically played by Tony Sheldon. Personally, his times on stage were my absolute favorite moments of the entire production. He has an impeccable sense of comedic timing, and makes the bumbling and often confused Pellinore charismatic, magnanimous, memorable, and deftly comical. Having created a name for himself in Australia, it will be exciting and refreshing to chart his rise to stardom in the United States. Furthermore, one can only hope that he enjoyed performing in Houston enough to make numerous return engagements to our stages.
As the evil Mordred, Adam Shonkwiler is consummately malignant. He expertly portrays the slithering, slimy, underhanded grasps for power contrived by his character. Leading the knights in a rousing rendition of "Fie on Goodness," he brilliantly shines as the immoral and depraved villain.
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