They don’t make kingdoms like “Camelot” anymore, where peace and justice reign. (And, speaking of rain, where it doesn’t do that until after sundown.)
They don’t make Broadway musicals like “Camelot” anymore, either. And sometimes I’m glad about that.
The new Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater is a fine showcase for a classic, gorgeously melodic score that comes from a time when Broadway tunes still played on the radio. In this production, directed by Elizabeth Fiester, you get to hear local theater veteran Terry Lewis boom out the rousing and gently seductive “If Ever I Would Leave You,” which is a very good thing.
As for the musical’s book: Well, it can be as creaky and old-school as your great-grandma’s antique rocker now in need of a good refurbishment. It’s bookended by a sedate opening sequence top-heavy with expository songs and an ending in which much of the climactic narrative is dumped into a tune (“Guinevere”) so dense with tying-up-the-storyline lyrics that you want to push the rewind button.
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Ah, but then there are Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics and Frederick Loewe’s music: the snappy “Lusty Month of May,” the wistful “How To Handle a Woman,” the droll “What Do the Simple Folk Do? They’re glorious.
Frankly, a part of me would have been just as content with a concert version of the show.
“Camelot” rests on the shoulders of King Arthur, of course, and Paddy Myers brings a wry, laid-back self-deprecation to the character. Perhaps even too laid-back. (At one point at the end of the first act, he shows us his ferocious side, and it would be nice if we could see a hint of his fire in his earlier scenes.) Guinevere, played with feisty dignity by Emily Pessano, has fine comic timing, and her sturdy soprano voice – while occasionally a bit stringent on opening night – really soars in delicate moments. Lewis, as the conflicted and stormy Lancelot, delivers a nice slow burn.
The highlight of the production is the smoldering love triangle that develops among Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, a visiting French knight smitten not only with the queen but with the king’s progressive ways.
Also intriguing: Arthur’s concept of the round table, around which knights – without rank or hierarchy – fight for the common good, not just petty territorial wars. The play is a commentary on the introduction of “civilization,” with an emphasis on law and order. Yet we think of ourselves as civilized today, and look at how wars and killing continue.
Jeff Dinmore is a standout as Pellinore, the harumphing older acquaintance who moves into Arthur’s castle. (His laugh lines are among the best.) And in a smooth and menacing performance, Tim Smith ups his acting ante in this production as the evil Mordred. (Never trust a knight with too much black eyeliner.) Abigail Nolte is a fine Morgan Le Fey, an enchantress who stirs up trouble for Arthur.
Still, something feels passive about some of the direction and design of this show. (Evan Commins’ lighting design is an exception.) I found myself annoyed and distracted by some of Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes, from Merlyn’s fussy garment (and, incidentally, Gordon Moore’s rushed delivery) to the flower-child, sack-like dresses of the ladies of the court, which suggest a 1970s gathering at the corner of Haight and Ashbury.
There are plenty of glorious old musicals, and Good Company has freshened up many of them, including the recent “My Fair Lady.” But for me, this isn’t one of them. I like the song “Camelot” more than I like the show. The armor, alas, is a little creaky.
- Through Nov. 6
- Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon Ave.
- www.gcplayers.com, 559-266-9494