Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.


Also see Susan's review of As You Like It

The production of Camelot now at the Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, is impressive and entertaining, if not a completely satisfying version of this ungainly show. Director-choreographer Stephen Nachamie has cut Alan Jay Lerner's legendarily wordy book down to two and a half hours through the excision of one musical number ("Fie on Goodness!") and the trimming of several scenes and songs.

People who think of Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1960 musical retelling of the legend of King Arthur likely envision the young, idealistic king as the handsome, charismatic Richard Burton (in the Broadway production) or Richard Harris (in the movie)—or, for that matter, as John F. Kennedy. Nachamie tries a different perspective, emphasizing Arthur's youth and innocence: as played by Todd Alan Johnson, the king is prematurely balding, not especially physically well coordinated, and not at all ready to rule without the guiding hand of Merlyn (Bill Largess), a wizard both wise and unimaginably old—but getting younger. Arthur does love Guenevere (Patricia Hurley), but he tends to live more in his ideals than in the real world, which leads to consequences he tries to avoid.

Hurley also demonstrates that Guenevere is not at all the cool, cultured lady one might think. Where Julie Andrews smoothed over the character's rough edges, Hurley plays her as willful and self-centered, wanting to be the heroine of a romance with a distinctly bloody subtext. (She sings: "Shall I not be on a pedestal, worshipped and competed for? Not be carried off or, better still, cause a little war?") She grows up, of course, and that is a major theme of the musical.

Aaron Ramey offers the best singing voice in the cast as Lancelot, the role that introduced Robert Goulet to the world. Ramey ably shows the two sides of Lancelot's personality: the sanctimonious faith in his own virtue that provokes anger among the rest of Arthur's knights, and the internal conflict that arises when circumstances bring him together with Guenevere.

Bill Largess gets laughs both as Merlyn and as the dotty King Pellinore, friend and advisor to Arthur. Evan Casey is a spiky-haired, waspish Mordred, gleefully spreading discontent among the knights of the Round Table. And the ensemble does well with Loewe's soaring melodies, with strong support from the six-piece orchestra conducted by Christopher Youstra.

Scenic designer Jeremy W. Foil has created a minimalist set that evokes medieval architecture with a few arches and sturdy pieces of furniture. Eric Propp's costumes add the necessary color and pomp to the production. Olney Theatre Center
November 18th, 2009 —January 3rd, 2010
Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Based on "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White
Merlyn/King Pellinore: Bill Largess
King Arthur: Todd Alan Johnson
Queen Guenevere: Patricia Hurley
Sir Dinadan: Jarid Faubel
Nimue: Carrie A. Johnson
Lancelot: Aaron Ramey
Dap: Andrew Sonntag
Sir Lionel: Tommy McNeal
Lady Sybil: Kara Tameika Watkins
Sir Sagramore: Don Kenneth Mason
Lady Ann: Sharen Camille
Mordred: Evan Casey
Tom of Warwick: James Chatham/William Goniprow
Ensemble: Sharen Camille, Evan Casey, Caitlin Diana Doyle, Maria Egler, Carrie A. Johnson, Deborah Lubega, Don Kenneth Mason, Tommy McNeal, Michael Nansel, Carl Randolph, Kirstin Riegler, Andrew Sonntag, Ryan Speakman, Kara Tameika Watkins
Directed and choreographed by Stephen Nachamie
Musical director/arranger: Christopher Youstra
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or