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Lerner's memoir
Posted by: peter3053 05:18 pm EDT 04/23/21
In reply to: re: You’re both right and wrong. - scoot1er 04:10 pm EDT 04/23/21

Just thought I'd mention the marvelously written memoir of the show's gestation, the chapter in Alan Jay Lerner's "On the Street Where I Live". I'm sure he gilds the lilly in his re-telling of events, but it's a wonderful read. Many funny stories - and some near tragic ones (Moss Hart's heart attack).

Overlength is an interesting problem, isn't it - not so much to do with the exact number of hours or minutes but with the effect of the structure of dramatic events. Lerner touches on this when he recounts the compression of a lot of Act Two action into the single number "Guenevere" ("It's every man for himself!" quipped Burton when he saw how they had to accomplish so much so quickly in suddenly introduced medieval ballad form so late in the piece.) And speaking of structure, I think he also says in the memoir (or maybe Julie Andrews said it in a doco) that part of the problem was that the first act seemed like a musical comedy and the second moved into the deepest tragedy. Audiences can get uncomfortable and start to feel the time going by when they don't know where a show should be heading. At some point (when? Does anyone know?) they put the prelude into the stage show, that is, the scene on the battlefield upfront ... so that the early action, indeed both acts, became a flashback with a pall of tragedy overhanging from the start. Was this after the film was made? This granted a unity to the piece, I feel.

Camelot can seem so stodgy (possibly because old fabled actors are often reviving it (when they need a bit of resuscitation themselves?)) yet its idealism and its tragic reach are rare. I recently listened to the remastered OBC CD - such a beautiful experience - and remembered the awful irony - that at the start Guenevere in her girlishness thinks it would be marvelous to have a war start over her - and at the end finally understands the awfulness of what that really means.

So many painfully beautiful moments in it. I sometimes wonder how it would feel if younger people played the parts and played up the youthful idealism... and also (although this would contradict Lerner's linguistic nods to a more sophisticated society) how it would be if its world were rendered more primitively - very very early medieval rather than later - so that Arthur's notions of the law and justice might seem to be so much more unusual to his contemporaries, as if he's poking his head just above the fog of violence, hatred and revenge all around him.
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Previous: re: You’re both right and wrong. - scoot1er 04:10 pm EDT 04/23/21
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