If you love the Lerner and Loewe musical “Camelot”, you can’t go wrong with the solid lovely production currently running at Downriver Actors Guild. Directed by Peter Sonnberg Schmidt, the production is faithful to the original. Running 2:45, it is one of the slower-moving classic musicals of the era. The original production opened on Broadway in 1960 and became a favorite of the Kennedy clan — the original cast album spent a whopping 60 weeks atop the Billboard best selling album list.
Telling the story of King Arthur and the round table and his marriage to Guenevere, it leads to the eventual unraveling of peace and harmony when said queen falls in love with French knight Lancelot leading to war between England and France. Also to a lot of pontificating. There isn’t a lot of action in this musical, it is known most for its gorgeous score.
John Sartor is a terrific King Arthur – he plays the part with a natural ease and warmth, and it all feels very genuine. Emily Noble is a lovely Queen Guenevere – her voice soars on her big numbers. If Bryan Aue’s Lancelot pales a bit next to these two, it is only because of the caliber of performances you are getting here. His swagger and demeanor come across as a bit hammy (okay, I take that back, this entire musical is hammy), but that is what it is and Bryan does a nice job with what he’s handed.
Michael Suchyta turns in a delicious evil-fringed performance as illegitimate son Mordred, Glen Reynolds is very funny as Pellinore, and Barbara Day has a wonderful moment as food-obsessed Morgan Le Fey (in a sequence normally cut by most productions).
Musical Director Wendy Biggs Fichter has done very good work with both her leads and her ensemble. The beautiful set – comprised of sliding walls and later some nifty ceiling-hung banners – is designed by Jim Steele. Roseann Spodeck’s costumes are gorgeous. The armor worn by the men looks wonderful. Want to see what great costume work looks like? Just follow Lancelot’s costumes as he goes from full-knightware to more relaxed looks later in the production.
The orchestra under the direction of David Waggoner (mostly) hits all the correct notes. Lighting is good – some of the best I have seen here (David Reynolds II and Joel Bias).
Directer Sonnberg Schmidt is wise to go with a reduced ensemble size — it works well in the space, and they sound (and look) fantastic. There are a few campier moments that could have used a bit of tightening and less ensemble reaction. There is a moment at the end of “Guenevere” when stage action has run out and there is just a lot of choir-like singing.
Camelot celebrates an ideology that was already dead in 1960 — and its themes of righteousness and might for right seem glorified and hokey in 2016. The recent Broadway tour cut out all of the pageantry in the show, and focused on the love triangle instead, and it worked better. The underlying theme of “is a person born to glory, or is glory thrust upon them” reverberates as poignantly as ever, and then there is that luscious score with ballads such as “If ever I would leave you”.
There is much to celebrate in Camelot, not the least of which is that a local group has chosen this show to perform. Its rarely done anymore due to the high cost of sets and costumes, and its outdated classic form. This re-imagining works very well, and I enjoyed my evening in Wyandotte very much.
Camelot at Downriver Actors Guild runs through Sunday May 15th at the Theatre on Avenue, 2656 Biddle Ave, Wyandotte, MI.