Music by Frederick Loewe
Based on “The Once and Future King” by T. H. White
Directed and Choreographed by Alan Souza
At Drury Lane Theatre
Reinterpreted version of Camelot plays as a refreshing chamber piece
Alan Souza’s Chicago directing debut is a reinterpretation of the 1960 Camelot, which starred Julie Andrews and Richard Burton.
Based on the old English mythology from T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” Camelot’s story revolves around the idealistic, fair-minded English king who establishes rule of law over the “might equals right” mentality. Ken Clark is charismatic as Arthur, playing him as a younger, pure, understanding, reasonable, and trusting fellow who holds chivalry and loyalty as paramount values. His bride, Guenevere (the vocally challenged Christy Altomare), falls for the pompous and too pure French knight, Lancelot (the strong-voiced, commanding Travis Taylor). Featuring great standards like “If Ever I Should Leave You,” “How To Handle A Woman” and the title song,”Camelot,” this production is long on newly arranged music.
The costumes and feel of the Drury Lane Theatre production emphasize the fantasy element of the mythical fable that reminds me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream complete with a touch of the forest fairies. This revised Camelot blends the new folksy, percussion-oriented new orchestrations (by Matt Aument) that gives the Frederick Loewe music a fantasy sound versus the more traditional score, filled with opulence. The entire production is broad, adventurous, and action-packed with wily magicians, chivalrous knights and a headstrong queen. Sentimentality and fairy tale kitsch is lacking here.
Still a three-way love story, this revisionist Camelot deals with the philosophy of being our best selves, of co-existence and peace. The laying down of arms to live in peace and harmony is preached. That is the essence of a true romantic, which defines King Arthur.
Ken Clark combines a charismatic turn with fine vocals to render his Arthur as a mensch filled with pure idealism. Travis Taylor’s strong, smug Lancelot is equally charismatic in his terrific rendering of “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Jonathan Weir was a hoot as Merlyn and Pellinore. Patrick Rooney was a delicious villain as Mordred. Unfortunately, the weakest part of the production was the unsure acting and flat-sounding vocals by Christy Altomare as Queen Guenevere.
Ultimately, the look (set design by Kevin Depinet), centered by a large tree with exquisite lighting by Lee Fiskness; the outstandingly thrilling fight choreography by John Tovar; and the innovative new orchestrations, which gave Loewe’s score a strong sound that could be toned down a tad so as not to overpower the singers, all contributed to a fresh interpretation of the classic production. I enjoyed this different take on Camelot – surely it isn’t the Kennedy Era sentimental romantic fable. This may be be a good thing. The energy, the idealism, and the romance win the day for Souza’s Camelot. It worked for me.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: November 6, 2014
For more info checkout the Camelot page at theatreinchicago.com
At Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook, IL, call 630-530-0111, www.drurylane.com, tickets $40 – $55, Wednesdays 1:30pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through January 4, 2015