Review: Camelot at the Hollywood Bowl
With so many older (pre-1970) musicals being the butt of jokes in current Broadway productions, it makes it both supremely difficult and yet very simple to appreciate the more elegant form of a musical. Take, for example, "Camelot", staged for one night at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Originally produced in 1960, the score was written by Lerner and Loewe, with lyrics brimming with simple statements, "In short, there's simply not/A more congenial spot/For happily-ever-aftering than here/In Camelot." However, the simple joys of Camelot were close to destroyed, for as Melissa Errico sang "Simple Joys of Maidenhood", strains of Spamalot's "Where Are You?" sprung into mind, briefly ruining the purity of the score Lerner and Loewe so beautifully composed.
On its own, the book of Camelot is rather dated. However, in today's politically charged climate, statements such as "Might isn't always right" seemed to resonate with the Democratic audience of the Hollywood Bowl. Especially when delivered with such conviction by Jeremy Irons in the role of King Arthur. While not a particularly good singer, Irons is excellent as the hopeful and ambitious King of England. As Guenevere, Melissa Errico brings a beautiful and lilting soprano, especially evident in "I Loved You Once in Silence". Unfortunately, the effect was diminished in that there seemed to be little chemistry with either her husband or with her love, Lancelot, performed by a marvelous James Barbour, who delivers a powerful "If Ever I Would Leave You."
Acting as narrators, the Mitch Hanlon Singers sounded beautiful, adding strength to the ensemble that performed wonderfully. While the choreography was rather bland, the dancers executed it in an elegant manner, especially in "Lusty Month of May". However, the overall staging of the show, as directed by Gordon Hunt, helped smooth the transitions and improve the pacing of the show, which runs almost 3 hours.
Entering during the second act, Malcolm Gets played the overt villain, Mordred, the illegitimate son of Arthur. Coaxing the other knights to join him, he led the male ensemble in a too-brief rendition of "Fie On Goodness."
In other supporting roles, Paxton Whitehead as Pellinore serves as friend and advisor to Arthur with humor and warmth, while Orson Bean gracefully dispenses wisdom briefly as Merlyn. Playing young Tom of Warwick, Benjamin Platt brings youthful eagerness and hope to King Arthur, aiding Arthur's personal journey to what appears to be acceptance, if not satisfaction, in the outcome of his life.
Halfway between a staged reading and full scale production, Camelot is a bit lengthy and dense for a one-night event at the Hollywood Bowl. However, hearing the score sung with such loveliness by Melissa Errico and intensity by James Barbour makes one forget the flaws that sneak in throughout the show, making it sparkle with the simple beauty of an old-fashioned musical.