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Gorgeous “Camelot” at Encore Musical Theatre Company (Review) June 17, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals, Uncategorized.
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There is a gorgeous production of the classic musical Camelot at Encore Musical Theatre Company and it looks and sounds pretty as a picture, with beautiful sets and costumes and Lerner and Loewe’s tune-filled familiar score.

Stephen West is in wonderful vocal form as King Arthur (aka Newt) and Olivia Hernandez returns to the Encore as Guenevere and she is lovely in voice and acting. David Moan (I proclaim “can do anything he wants in any role he wants”) is that good here as well. His Lancelot is filled with self-absorption and (later) moping. His “If Ever I would Leave You” had audible gasps around me — although that might have just been the age of the audience and their familiarity with that particular song. The entire ensemble was spot-on terrific, and there is a particularly well-played Mordred by Tyler Lynch who in turns humorously creates an annoying character as well as the most spirited moments in the second act.

Sarah Tanner has designed a beautiful multilevel set that makes the Encore space look much bigger than it actually is (as she did with Into the Woods and Assassins). Sharon Larkey Urick’s costumes are marvelous and colorful. Daniel Walker’s lighting is bright and makes everything look brilliant on stage. Anne Donevan’s property design is terrific — you try finding that many swords and banners. Daniel Helmer’s fight choreography is fun to watch (though Lancelot could have easily escaped that room several times during that fight) and Matthew Brennan’s choreography is wonderful. That it all works at all is credit to director Dan Cooney who has enthused his cast to look beyond the paper-thin characters and create something of substance, and to Tyler Driskill who, as usual, makes beautiful music happen.

That’s about as glowing a review as I can muster for a show that is on the bottom of my list of classic musicals, and I love classic musicals. It is a dated, old-fashioned, unfocused storyline with reluctant bride Guenevere first appalled then smitten with King Arthur, later appalled then smitten with Lancelot — eventually running off with Lancelot which leads to the most anticlimactic and worst ending of a musical ever.

Lerner and Loewe’s score is often lovely (and sounds great here under the musical direction of Tyler Driskill). This production wisely cuts a good 30-minutes off of the (still) too long musical although the last 30 minutes of the show is still a slog through soap-opera territory. Clocking in at 2:35 it felt like it was much longer.

Whenever I see the show, I read other reviews and hear people talk about “how timely it is in the current political climate.” I don’t see it. It was dated in 1960 and it is very dated in 2017 – bordering on the edge of operetta even in the 60’s. But it is what it is, and what it is is gorgeous in this production. Though if you are not a lover of classic musicals, you’ll leave a bit underwhelmed since the musical theater world has changed significantly since this musical first appeared. There’s also the problematic handling of Guenevere’s character — who makes choices based on what middle aged men wrote, designed, and directed back in the last days of the golden musicals — that is to say, her choices are bizarre and male-centric to say the least.

Still, this is a lovely night of theater – and tickets are selling very fast. I saw the production on a sold-out Thursday night. Get yours now.

Recommended (Highly recommended if you love classic musicals, even if you don’t particularly like Camelot).

Camelot continues at Encore Musical Theatre Company through July 2nd. Tickets at encore theatre.org or 734-268-6200.

Photo courtesy Encore photographed by Michele Anliker.

 

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“Camelot” at Downriver Actors Guild is solid classic musical theater (review) May 14, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater.
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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.

Recommended.

Camelot at Downriver Actors Guild runs through Sunday May 15th at the Theatre on Avenue, 2656 Biddle Ave, Wyandotte, MI.