“If you made a list of your favorite plays or musicals that might make you think of the holidays, it’s doubtful that the Lerner and Lowe musical, “Camelot” would make your top 10. Or, for that matter, the top 25.
Despite a production that is well-performed, visually attractive and terrifically sung, the production that is at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany through December 24, won’t move that needle in an upward direction.
Which is rather odd. Camelot is, for at least the first act, a musical filled with memorable music, romance and bigger-than-life characters. It has a score that includes such lovely songs as “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “How to Handle a Woman,” “C’Est Moi,” and of course the title song - which will worm its way into your memory bank for days. Too, there are upbeat production numbers like “The Merry Month of May” and “Take Me to the Fair.” Even in the darker second act numbers like “Seven Deadly Virtues” and “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” offer opportunities for fun.
The story is less frothy than is the score. “Camelot” is about a mythical kingdom, and like most myths it has something to say about the world in which we live. The expresses hope that there can exist a just place where men can live in peace and work together for the common good. When evil is introduced to the mix, human weaknesses divide the population and a perfect society turns against its virtuous leader and civil war destroys the country.
It’s almost impossible not to be saddened and dismayed at the fragility of idealism as shown in “Camelot.” If a love triangle between King Arthur, Lady Guenevere and Sir Lancelot could bring ruin to a community dedicated to peace and prosperity for all, you must wonder what chance does any society have to prevail over powerful forces of negativism and dissention.
The problem with the show is neither its terrific score nor its important message. The problem comes from the 56-year old musical showing its age. This is a quintessential “old-fashioned” musical that takes a full two and a half hours to complete. And despite director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill’s vibrant and imaginative staging the work seems to take forever to finish. The play’s forward thrust is continuously thwarted as new characters are introduced and given mandatory expositional numbers. The stop-and-go rhythms of the play are such that the cleverest of staging is rendered helpless.
The performers are as valiant as they are talented. The three leads – Kevin McGuire as Arthur, Leenya Rideout as Guenevere and Oliver Thornton as Lancelot - sing wonderfully and find the humanity in their flawed characters. It is a special delight to see the three actors and the director take risks by offering their own interpretation of these iconic characters.
This is a surprising large cast who double and triple roles, as well as playing musical instruments as they also serve as an orchestra. When you read their biographies you will be impressed by the quality of the cast’s experience. Watching their work on stage you will be in awe of their talent.
This is a fine production of a classic musical that speaks to today’s political landscape, but yet seems strangely dated.
“Camelot” continues at Capital Repertory Theatre downtown Albany through December 24. For schedule and ticket information call 518-445-7469
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.