Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
There is only one word to describe Arena Stage's production of Camelot. That word is lovely and it is a word that encompasses everything from the cast to the costumes.
Camelot presents the story of the fabled King Arthur and his efforts to create a peaceful existence through the formation of the legendary "round table." The show also focuses on his wife, Queen Geunevere, and her relationship with the noble knight Lancelot.
This production is all about chemistry, and Molly Smith's direction along with Baayork Lee's choreography brings that chemistry to the forefront. The relationship among all three of these characters is magnetic. Every thought and emotion portrayed on stage is clearly defined.
The long familiar musical is the creation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Lerner's lyrics and Loewe's music result in a wonderful blend of feeling and poetry. This is especially evident in two of the show's best-known numbers, "Camelot" and "If Ever I Would Leave You." Lerner's book is also quite effective as it incorporates the themes of love, honor and harmony among nations.
Smith leads a superb cast that is made up of Broadway alums and local talent. As Arthur, Steven Skybell (The Full Monty, Love! Valour! Compassion!) is nothing short of magnificent. He plays this mature character as an engaging man-child and his musical numbers are perfect. Another import from Broadway is Matt Bogart (Aida, Miss Saigon). Bogart is quite charming as the upstanding knight and connects well with Skybell. He also proves to be a successful romantic figure - especially during the beautifully performed, "If Ever I Would Leave You."
Kate Suber plays the feisty Guenevere and does so with great skill. Suber inhabits the character and manages to portray her spirit and inner turmoil. Local favorite J. Fred Shiffman (An American Daughter, South Pacific) is an authoritative Merlyn and a rather enjoyable Pellinore. However, a true standout in this cast is Jack Ferver as the wonderfully evil Mordred. Ferver takes on the form of Arthur's dastardly illegitimate son with incredible skill. His performance of "The Seven Deadly Virtues" is truly a high point.
Visually, the show works well. The set design by Kate Edmunds is simple but effective. Paul Tazewell's costumes are true to the setting and time period and John Ambrosone's lighting sets the mood.
Arena's production of Camelot is certainly a must-see. It is definitely worth the trip down to Southwest to visit the land where "the rain may never fall till after sundown." Camelot runs through January 4th.
Young Arthur/Tom of Warwick: James Soller/ Brandon Thane Wilson