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Surprisingly glorious “Camelot” tour (review, Toledo) October 25, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour, musical theater, Musicals.
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Every now and then, you see a musical that catches you by surprise to the point that it takes your breath away — What, you ask? Another tour of that tired 1960 musical Camelot? Well, guess what, I’m here to tell you that the current national tour (non-equity) did just that this afternoon.

Director Michael McFadden might have finally hit upon the pieces necessary to rework this piece, and this revisal is a masterclass in making something out of not much: completely re-orchestrated and pared-down from the original production, it also re-arranges some of the musical numbers which work much better in their current settings, and makes judicious use of cuts: gone is that weird Morgan le Fay stuff…gone are the overture and entre’acte…gone are all the dance numbers…gone are those long instrumental scene changes (not needed with modern tech, which this show has in spades)…gone are the stodgy old musical arrangements…gone is that long long pageant sequence for the knighting of Lancelot (though its there, in a new time-measure, and working lickety split to convey the story while not bogging it all down).

Added are rhythmic drum breaks during scene changes, and a glorious set design which is basic-unit in design with additional pieces flown in and out as necessary. Added are new rhythms to many of the songs — gone are the long introductory narrative slogs leading into the songs…those that remain have been rearranged, sped-up, and dare I say that Lerner and Loewe’s score sounds fresher than ever.

What this means is that the show is pared from a run time of 3 hours to 2 hours 20 minutes including the intermission — and the love-triangle firmly established from early on. The show now has a tight focus on the Arthur/Guenevere/Lancelot story, and the last twenty minutes are genuinely thrilling. It helps significantly to have moved “If Ever I Would Leave You” to the penultimate sequence, and there were plenty of genuine audience tears at the end of the show, something I have never experienced at any production of Camelot in the past.

Ok, now this is a good place to mention that in general I don’t like Camelot, though this production might finally prove me wrong. Not gone are the ridiculous songs for Mordred in the second act – his role is to primarily catch Lance and Guenevere in the act yet he takes up 15 minutes of stage time singing two utterly forgettable songs (though Kasidy Devlin is sublime as the sleazy character, who for better or worse plenty of parents would be happy to cast off as Arthur did, only to have him return to bite him on the butt later in life).  Also not gone is Nimue’s “Follow Me” number — which earned some snickers in the audience this afternoon despite the earnest (and pretty) staging.

But oh, what a wonderful cast…McFadden has solved the problem right out of the gate by casting two hunks in the leads and letting Guenevere understandably be conflicted over the two, there are no bad choices…Adam Grabau (Arthur) is superb — Mary McNulty (Guenevere) positively channels Julie Andrews in her effervescent performance — and Tim Rogan is especially glorious in the role of Lancelot. Yes please.

The entire 17-member cast is superb, and they sound great under the musical direction of Marshall Keating (though I must also mention the excellent musical supervision and additional orchestrations by Steven M Bishop). Though the smaller cast does have its down side for the men: it means doubling and even tripling character parts and it results in things like Squire Dab instantly reappearing as a knight in King Arthur’s court moments later, and the knights in the joust sequence hopping on and off stage to be able to keep the vocals going. When the men’s ensemble is finally allowed to let go they sound lush and fuller than their small size (even if it is on the time-wasting “Fie on Goodness” number). Two local boys alternate to play Tom of Warwick (Croswell Opera House in Adrian’s own Cole Carrico at my performance!) and Findlay’s Jeremy Gobrogge.

I’ve heard nothing about this tour’s next stop after their long trek across the US — and marvel at the energy of a cast that must be thrilled to have an entire week at the Stranahan rather than the one or two night one-offs they are playing nationwide. I mention this because I truly hope its not the end of the road for this excellent production — New York is a bit crowded with revisals this season…but next year?…

Very Highly Recommended.

See camelottour.com for tickets and schedule.

 

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