Glimpses of Majesty in Camelot at the 5th Avenue Theatre
Also see David's review of My Name is Rachel Corrie
Certainly the running time has been trimmed well beyond any production of the show I have ever seen, and all of the song tempos are taken at a brisk gallop. "I Loved You Once in Silence" is an unfortunate omission, one third of "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" is questionably excised, but "Fie on Goodness" isn't missed at all. "If Ever I Would Leave You" falls later in act two now and the placement there seems fine. Director Glenn Casale and choreographer Dan Mojica give us an earthier, at times darker view of the material that works as far as it goes. But by and large this Camelot feels more reduced than really revised.
The jewels in this version of the tale of the legendary "Once and Future King" and the heartbreaking triangle between King Arthur, Queen Guenevere and Sir Lancelot are Rachel York and James Barbour as Guenevere and Lance. York, who deserves a first class new musical starring role on Broadway pronto, is well-nigh perfect in both the acting and singing aspects of her role. While giving an interpretation of the fabled queen that is distinctly her own, York's song interpretations recall the vintage vocals and crisp lyric delivery of the role's originator, York's past co-star and chum Julie Andrews, while her acting, particularly in Guenevere's more saucy moments, sizzles in a manner not unlike what Vanessa Redgrave brought to the role in the 1968 film. York has excellent chemistry with Barbour, who takes his Lancelot on a clear emotional journey from self-impressed knight to achingly conflicted comrade of King Arthur and lover of Guenevere. His renditions of the self-aggrandizing "C'est Moi" and the show's power love ballad "If Ever I Would Leave You" are both completely satisfying.
Less satisfying, yet hard to dismiss, is star Michael York's turn as King Arthur. The still charismatic film star would have made a marvelous Mordred in his youth, but he isn't quite comfortable as the fabled ruler of Camelot. York clearly aims and wants to please and is ingratiating throughout. However, he reads more fatherly than as a contemporary of Ms. York and Barbour in the love triangle, and his on pitch yet whispery vocals diminish such songs as "How to Handle A Woman" and the title song, though he and Rachel York do a good job trying to pick up each other's spirits in "What Do the Simple Folk Do?"
In support of the starring trio, Eric Anderson makes a strong impression as a more vital and mystical Merlyn than usually portrayed, and his presence is missed when the character is lured away by a magical spell early in act one. Time Winters is an ideally dazed, endearing and delightful Pellinore, and Shannon Stoke a suitably sulky schemer as Mordred. Stuart Ambrose, Daniel Guzman and Robert J. Townsend offer boisterous support to Rachel York in the happily restored comedy quartet "Take Me to the Fair."
The chief disappointment in the physical production would have to be most aspects of John Iacovelli's scenic designs, which tend to look rather threadbare, save the notably luxurious appearance of Guenevere's bed chamber. Tom Ruzika's lighting design largely satisfies as do the often handsome and fairly authentic looking costume designs of Marcy Froelich. Orchestrator/Musical Supervisor Craig Barna keeps the musical numbers moving at a brisk pace, though occasionally too brisk. Sean Boyd's sword fight direction of the competition between Lance and the three knights is most rousing.
There is enough merit in this incarnation of Camelot to suggest a Broadway run might prove successful, with a few more $ spent on a more lavish physical production. Yet, in all deference to Mr. York, a more suitable King Arthur would make or break it. Question is, would Patrick Stewart or someone on that order be interested in ascending the throne for a long enough run?
Camelot runs through April 8 at the 5th Avenue Theatre 1308 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle. Visit the 5th Avenue's web-site at www.5thavenuetheatre.org for further details.
Photo: Craig Schwartz