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Review: Camelot at the Depot Theatre

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The musical Camelot runs at the Depot Theater in Westport through August 20. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at a recent performance and has this review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

CAMELOT, with book and lyrics by Alan J. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, is based on one of my favorite books, THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING by T. H. White.  For me this creates a problem with objectivity.  Whereas the book begins when Arthur is a young boy and ends just prior to his death, the musical begins with his marriage to Guenevere.  My mind automatically fills in all the richness and depth of the novel.  Audience members who know only the musical no doubt wonder why I'm sitting there at the end sniffling and surrounded by kleenex.

One reason in the Depot's production is Mark Aldrich, who plays King Arthur.  As well as having a very good voice, Mr. Aldrich is an excellent actor who believably portrays Arthur's attempt to hold true to his ideas of civilization and justice, despite his personal desires.  He does a wonderful job with the Act I curtain speech and also in the final scene, in which he's ably assisted by Sam Balzac as Tom.

Mr. Aldrich is nicely balanced by Pamela Brumley as Guenevere.  Her voice is perfect for the role, and she adds a nice sparkle to the character in the early scenes.  Mordred as played by Matt Leisy is appropriately evil, but doesn't seem to get as much boyish glee from his nastiness as he should.  His performance and singing are solid, but all on one level.

Adam Hose as Sir Dinadan, John Moss as Sir Lionel and Robert Owen Dalton as Sir Sagramore are all three good actors with powerful voices who shine in "Take Me to the Fair".  As Lancelot, Tyson Jennette does a nice job on "If Ever I Would Leave You", however "C'est Moi" seems overly serious and at times almost sullen.  Doesn't Lancelot enjoy his own wonderfulness?

John Christopher Jones is terrific as the bumbling King Pellinore.  He has a nice innocently vulnerable quality and his reference to a "chambre de coucher" made me choke on my mint.

Lisa Cody-Rapport's set is simple and very effective.  The stage is lined with stone-like fabric and overhead is an arch covered with Celtic designs.  She's used varying arrangements of three moveable fabric panels, also with Celtic designs, to delineate the various settings.  Julie Duro's lighting design is also good, especially in the final scene.

Norma Jeanne Curley has done an excellent job with the music.  All the lyrics in "The Joust" and "Guenevere" are perfectly clear - a small miracle of good diction.  It's also good to hear a song usually cut, "Fie on Goodness" that takes advantage of the strong male voices in the cast.  We even got to hear a bit of Miss Curley's notorious train medley combined with the title song when the South-bound Amtrak went through.

Jennifer J. Cavenaugh has done good job of directing CAMELOT with its many scenes and complex ideas.  However she's used a trio of women throughout to comment, mostly silently, on the action. With two exceptions I found them both distracting and unnecessary particularly during musical numbers.  They're effective only when they mime the stone from which Arthur pulls the sword and when playing Morgan LeFey using giant stick puppets, both of which pieces of staging are very clever.  I understand Miss Cavenaugh's idea in using the trio, but for me in general it doesn't work.

In this time of global turmoil we can all use a reminder that might should be used for right, not just for its own sake, and that civilized dialogue and justice matter.  Otherwise we in this country stand in danger of fulfilling one of CAMELOT'S final lyrics, "In the dying candle's gleam came the sundown of a dream."

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of CAMELOT gets four boxcars.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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