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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Lyric Light Opera Enchants with its vision of Camelot

Also see David's review of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Camelot
Logan Benedict
Notoriously problematic yet timelessly popular, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Camelot as staged recently by Lyric Light Opera seemed, under Brenda Mueller's astute direction and spot on casting, to have the key to unlocking what's best about this 1960 musical based on "The Once and Future King" by E.T. White.

This ultra-romantic musical about the legendary English kingdom of King Arthur and how his round table and gallant knights briefly ushered in a golden age, undone by the scandalous love between Queen Guinevere and Lancelot Du Lac, had the misfortune to be Lerner, Loewe, and director Moss Hart's follow-up to the blockbuster My Fair Lady, underlined by the casting of My Fair Lady's Eliza, Julie Andrews, as Guinevere. It ran two solid seasons and toured well, but was then adapted into a lumbering film version, and for big revivals Lerner rewrote the show as a flashback, to justify casting the original stage and screen Arthurs (Richard Burton and Richard Harris) as a supposed audience lure. Locally, that tradition continued with productions starring Noel Harrison and Michael York. Mueller, by casting a late thirtyish Arthur and not cutting such frequently shorn numbers as "Take Me to the Fair" and "The 7 Deadly Virtues" made her Camelot an enchanted and most entertaining kingdom, even with its inevitably downbeat second act.

Her Arthur was handsome, full-voiced charmer Greg Stone, who began his career in the Seattle area before finding notable success on Broadway and in national tours. Stone gave his Arthur a warm grin, twinkling eyes and a dreamer's heart, as he set out to create a peaceful kingdom. His voice, far stronger than the role requires, and his interpretation of the Lerner lyrics made "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight?," "Camelot" and especially "How to Handle a Woman" vital once more. With a vocal grace easily on par with the young Julie Andrews, Megan Chenovick created a blithe, sensuous and sympathetic Guinevere, moving surely from the insecure princess on her wedding night, in "Simple Joys of Maidenhood," to a devilishly crafty Queen in the happily included "Then You May Take Me to the Fair." The actress caressed her ballads "Before I Gaze at You Again"and "I Loved You Once in Silence" and shared the jaunty yet wistful "What do the Simple Folk Do?" with Stone. The duo was a fine match throughout the production, which rendered the final unraveling of their union very poignant. Logan Benedict might well have stepped out of an illustrated book of fairy-tale heroes as Lancelot. One can't imagine the role's creator, a young Robert Goulet, having any better way with Lance's self-worshipping "C'est Moi" or packing more passion into his big love song (and most lasting standard) "If Ever I Would Leave You."

With a trio this secure in the pivotal roles, what else do you need? How about an endearingly blustery Kevin Cobley as the oafish wandering King Pellinore (doubling in the role of Merlyn, who is basically a cameo character in Lerner's book), and Ryan Edwards' fey, punk-rockerish approach to the show's only truly evil character, Mordred, Arthur's bastard son by the magical Queen Morgause. Edwards relished every biting Lerner lyric in Mordred's chastising "The 7 Deadly Virtues." Musical director John Allman got an amazing choral sound from the large ensemble and some nice flourishes from his impressively large orchestra as well, while Stacy Poirier provided lively and decorative choreography in a show that has never required much in the way of its dance elements. The rented sets and costumes were handsome and opulent. The show was paced beautifully, but whatever caused an overlong (nearly 25 minute) intermission hopefully was an occurrence only at the performance I attended.

I got to Camelot late in its run, which ended April 17. Based on the company's success with this problematic piece, I look greatly forward to attending future productions.

Lyric Light Opera traditionally performs its shows at both McIntyre Hall in Mt. Vernon, and Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland. For more information on future Lyric Light Opera productions, go to www.lyriclightopera.org.

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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