BWW Interview: Matthew Blake Johnson of CAMELOT at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, Merlin-these names spark the imagination and bring to mind images of knights, swords, castles, and magic. The tales of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the legendary Camelot are the subject of myriad novels, movies, TV shows, songs, plays, and musicals. From the 1938 tale The Sword the Stone (which was made into the animated film by Disney in 1963) to the 2008 TV series Merlin to the 2005 Broadway show Monty Python's Spamalot (based on the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail), for generations these stories have taken us on magical adventures. The 1960 musical Camelot, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe is based on the T.H. White novel The Once and Future King. Camelot comes to life at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre May 9-June 22. Check out our interview with Matthew Blake Johnson, who can be seen on stage at Dutch Apple as Mordred in Camelot.
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself.
Johnson: My name is Matthew Blake Johnson. I grew up in a small rural town in North Carolina and now reside in New York City. I have a BFA in Musical Theatre from East Carolina University.
BWW: How did you get into acting?
Johnson: Growing up, I was always singing. My parents put me in a local youth choir to give me an outlet to perform, but I was never satisfied singing with a group. In 5th grade, I auditioned for the local youth theatre's production of Wonderland and was cast as the White Knight. I fell in love with being on stage and haven't stopped performing since.
BWW: Have you performed in Camelot before, and if so, what role?
Johnson: Yes, actually. This is my third time doing the show. I was in a production of Camelot at my college back in 2013. I was in the ensemble as a featured tumbler and one of the Knights. Last summer, I was in a joint regional production of Camelot between Old Creamery Theatre and Great Plains Theatre. They did a new 8 person cast version of Camelot. I was cast as Mordred in that production and learned that I love to play the bad guy, but I wanted the chance to do the full version of the classic show. When I heard that Dutch Apple was doing it this summer, I knew it was my chance.
BWW: What is your favorite show and role to date?
Johnson: Mordred in Camelot.
BWW: What is your dream show and role?
Johnson: Plankton in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical or Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
BWW: There are so many different stories about King Arthur. In your opinion, what is it about the legend of King Arthur that appeals to people so much?
Johnson: I feel like most people have heard of King Arthur. His story is one of the earliest tales of magic and wizards and knights and swords and battle and all the things we love about fantasy today.
BWW: Tell us a little about your character in the musical Camelot.
Johnson: Mordred is King Arthur's illegitimate son. He grew up with his mother, Queen Morgause, and his step-father, King Lot, in Scotland. Neither of his parents cared for him much or showed him any affection. He grew up wondering why his stepfather hated him so much only to learn that King Arthur is his real father. Mordred hates the King and all he stands for and will stop at nothing to tear down everything King Arthur has built.
BWW: What is your favorite song in the show?
Johnson: "The Lusty Month of May" because it is so fun and lighthearted and nearly the entire ensemble is on stage together celebrating. It's very theatrical and gives the audience some relief before everything gets so dark in Act II.
BWW: How does it feel to play the "villain"?
Johnson: Playing the villain is great because of all the acting opportunities it presents. I love the energy on stage when I get to plot against the King right in front of him. Working off each other is kind of like a game of ping pong because you never know what you'll get.
BWW: How do you think audiences will respond to Mordred?
Johnson: I think audiences are going to loathe Mordred. I hope audiences will see just how evil he is and will be able to recognize how he ruined the Round Table and everything that made Camelot so special.
BWW: The musical Camelot first appeared on Broadway in 1960. What is it about this show, in your opinion, that continues to enchant audiences?
Johnson: I think that in a world where so many new shows are movie adaptions or jukebox musicals or commercial juggernauts, audiences are desperate for a classic musical. So many people grew up listening to Camelot on vinyl in their home that the nostalgia of Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet singing those gorgeous Lerner & Loewe classics makes them want to get to the theatre to see a new retelling of the familiar love triangle. For younger theatre goers, I think they are curious to see a show that was loved by so many all those years ago.
BWW: If someone were to write a play, film, or musical about your life, who would you want to play you?
Johnson: Me, of course!
Get your tickets for this classic tale today at www.dutchapple.com.