There are older musicals that we just don’t see very often. Some of these belong on the shelf and others need to be viewed. Drury Lane has brought back “Camelot” with a new , shortened landscape and some new looks. For those old enough to recall the original, the show that was written for Richard Burton and Julie Andrews with a book by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe (the creators of “My Fair Lady”) and the story is based on a book “The Once and Future king”. It is the story of King Arthur and his dream of creating the “Round Table” and a justice system to replace wars and battles. It has always been a play of “spectacle” where the sets and costumes are what we recall most along with a few of the songs.
In the new production, the stage has been designed (Kevin Depinet) to bring us into the enchanted forest as we meet Arthur (Ken Clark who improves as the play progresses) and his tutor Merlin (Jonathan Weir, a Chicago favorite) and learn the history of how a peasant becomes King by removing Excalibur from the rock. It is his wedding day. He is to marry Guenevere (the lusty Christy Altomare) and we get to watch their relationship grow.
There is some magic in their meeting but as the story unfolds, we meet a knight who has come to join Arthur’s Round Table, Sir Lancelot (deftly handled by Travis Taylor, who does not have the rich voice of Robert Goulet, but is a far better actor and makes the character better) who finds himself in love with his Queen. As it turns out, she is in love with him as well. The story is about this relationship as well as the true love between Arthur and Lancelot. Arthur’s desire to change the way people think and to fight the war against evil, making life better for all, is more than his queen can handle.
Arthur also has a son from his youthful days who comes to seek revenge for his not being there in his youth. Mordred (deftly handled by Patrick Rooney) comes into the story in Act II and does his evil in hopes to destroy what his “father” is doing. He learns of the Queen’s infidelity and makes sure that Arthur is aware, causing a battle internal! This is a story of lust and love. Of honor and betrayal. During the Kennedy presidency (way back in the 1960’s) much was made about our country being in the “Camelot Era”. I was never sold on this nickname, but understand that in some ways JFK was on the same page as King Arthur in trying to change the world and make it better. I am not so sure that this play should be taken as more than a little bit of history and a story of love. Love between two men as well as the woman they both love.
The ensemble is young and energetic with some dance sequences that are rough and ready. Also very impressive was Weir coming back as Pellinore, one of Arthur’s Knights. Weir brings a new flavor to this character, one that truly stands out. The musical numbers in “Camelot” that are well remembered are “If Ever I Would Leave You”, “How To Handle A Woman”, “Follow Me” (a solid production number in the forest (beautifully done by Keewa Nurullah),”The Lusty Month Of May” and of course the title song, “Camelot”. The orchestra, conducted by Ben Johnson brings the music to life and the new orchestrations are terrific. In fact, the shortened version of the story works making what used to be a boring musical into one that is worth viewing. I must say that Maggie Hoffman and her crew did an excellent job with the costumes, although in some cases, not as regal as I would have expected.
“Camelot” will continue at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through January 4th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 1:30 and 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.
Tickets range from $40- $55 ( there are also lunch and dinner specials with affordable prices and wonderful meals). To order your tickets call the theater at 630-530-0111 , Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000, or online ,visit www.drurylane.com
senior and student discounts .
The theater is located in Oak brook just north of Oakbrook Mall with plenty of free parking.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Camelot”