By Lindsey Kelstrom
I took a group of fellow “Golden Oldies” musical lovers with me to Centerpoint Theatre in Centerville Saturday night to enjoy their production of Camelot together, and boy did we ever. I’ve always loved the story of King Arthur laden with magical surrealism, chivalry, and romance, beginning with Disney’s The Sword in the Stone when I was a little girl, to reading T.H. White’s The Once and Future King as a young adult- which is where Camelot’s creators Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe found their inspiration when writing the musical.
The story begins with an uncertain Arthur (Mark Knowles, TTHS) left to rule Camelot without his guiding mentor, Merlin (Rob Child, TTHS), years after pulling Excalibur from the stone and becoming King of Britain. He finds his inspiration and the courage to move forward upon meeting and falling in love with Guenevere (Becca Burdick, TTHS). They marry and rule as King and Queen as Arthur forms the Knights of the Round Table and leads the country into a more democratic form of governing. Hearing of the famed Round Table, Lancelot (Damon Yauney, TTHS), a haughty yet great fighter comes to Camelot to become a knight. He is loyal to Arthur, but soon falls madly in love with Guenevere, and she for him. They do not act upon their love for years, but a disgruntled illegitimate son of Arthur Mordred (Colton Ward, TTHS) stirs up trouble in an attempt to rule the kingdom himself, making it harder for the star-crossed lovers to deny their love for one another any longer.
Centerpoint’s cast and crew work wonderfully to set the scene with beautifully detailed and elaborate sets designed by Scott Van Dyke, which are immediately followed by strong vocals and British accents from the actors in its opening scenes to transport its audience to a Medieval time and place. Knowles (TTHS) as King Arthur, while appearing a bit older for the part, delivers a believable coming of age king with good energy, on-tempo speak singing, and strong vocals. Burdick (TTHS) plays Guenevere as youthful and energetic and has the voice of a lark. Some of her placement and movement choices at times, however, don’t translate as a royal lady of the court. Sir Lancelot, played by Fox 13 News meterologist Yauney (TTHS), has the strong build and deep, smooth vocals that one would expect from the knight who steals Guenevere’s heart. I sometimes found myself looking for more emotion from him as he is being torn by his love for Guenevere versus his loyalty to his king. Ward struts around stage as Mordred in a killer costume that exudes villain, and cowers just at the right moments to effectively reveal to the audience what his character really is. I have to note that one of my favorite characters in the production is Chuck Gilmore as Pellinore (TTHS), trusted friend of Arthur. His presence on stage is natural and inviting and his comedic timing exudes professionalism of the art.
The sound (Alyssa Evans) and lighting design (David Reese) are also smooth and seamless, and both breathe life into the magical and mythical elements that are necessary to the successful telling of this classic story. The costumes, designed by Tammis Boam, also transport audiences to a Medieval time of the Court of Camelot. I would have liked to see more armor on the knights, especially during the jousting scenes, but the style and amount of weaponry is perfect on the stage.
Director Kristi Curtis has her heart and soul in this production, as the director of double casts, as well as the dance and fight choreographer. Her beautiful choreography keeps the story quick-paced and upbeat at the right moments, and somber and reflective at others. Some of the movements are more modern in tone than perhaps expected of the time, for example, the wave during the joust, but it keeps the tone of a lighter moment on stage and gets the audience laughing and relating. The large set pieces, while regal and mystical, make for a slightly obstructed view from some seats in the theatre, but with thoughtful blocking and placing the actors on the apron of the stage Curtis successfully gives a good view for most of the audience.
The best moments, for me, of this production are the vocals of the musical numbers. It’s a tall order to successfully execute such timeless and well-known numbers, from iconic leading characters like Julie Andrews and Richard Harris, but the lead actors and ensemble of the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday cast meet this order, and have obviously been well-directed and vocally coached by musical director Derek Myler. Quickened tempos and the cutting of entire verses from songs were a bit hard for me to swallow. As a lover of this story and musical, I missed the scene and lyrics omitted. But the cuts are made tastefully, and if you are not a die-hard Camelot enthusiast, they are not even noticed, and definitely shorten the show to less than the typical almost three hours.
This production has once again reminded me why I love the story of Camelot so dearly. Through song and sets, costumes and comedy, you understand the pull toward something that could be your ruin, you empathize with the effects of self-destruction, but are reminded that to forgive is divine, and you learn that sometimes there are causes that are bigger than yourself and that to sacrifice for them is the greatest conquest of all.
CenterPoint Legacy Theater presents Camelot by Lerner and Loewe
CenterPoint Legacy Theater, 525 North 400 West, Centerville, UT 84014
April 13-May 10, 2018 Mon-Sat 7:30 PM