Photo: Aaron Rumley.

Camelot

North Coast Rep, San Diego

Written by:
Lynne Friedmann
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A man with power must choose between hewing to the letter of the law or doing whatever it takes to advance his personal aims.

Don’t know who pops into your mind but I’m referring to King Arthur, whose timeless tale receives a streamlined interpretation in the musical “Camelot” on stage at North Coast Rep.
 
The story opens with a perplexed Arthur (Jered McLenigan) hiding in a tree as he nervously ponders another life event to which he has no control; the first being his extraction of the Excalibur Sword from a stone. Today’s challenge is marriage to a woman he has never met, making her his queen a condition of a peace treaty. Cold feet combine with red-hot embarrassment as Arthur imagines his subjects tittering about his duty-bound nuptials (“I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight”).

Arthur turns to his trusted advisor on manhood and kingship, Merlyn (Jason Heil, in an endearing portrayal). Alas, the wizard has entered his dotage, a major disadvantage since Arthur relies upon Merlyn’s prognostications of the future. 



Enter Guenevere (soprano Lauren Weinberg) who is equally uncertain about saying “I do” given her enjoyment of carefree days as a princess (“The Simple Joys of Maidenhood”). Weinberg’s command of her crystalline voice is stunning.

Completing what will ultimately become a love triangle is Lancelot (Brian Krinsky). Despite some microphone issues on opening night, Krinsky’s impressive baritone pinned the audience to the back wall of the theater (“C’est Moi”).

Arthur puts the knights of the round table (played by Jacob Caltrider, Scott Hurst, Jr. and Elias Wygodny) to work using their “might for right” through a new legal system with equal justice for all. When Lancelot and Guenevere’s passions become treason, Arthur’s resolve to uphold the new legal order he has put in place is put severely to the test.
 
Adding gasoline to the fire is Arthur’s out-of-wedlock son Mordred (Nick Apostolina), whose ambition, manipulation and determination to steal the throne know no bounds. Also boundless is Apostolina’s commanding singing voice (“Fie on Goodness”).

The musical “Camelot,” based upon the book “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White, is as storied as the legend of Arthur. The original Broadway production of 1960 was a behemoth to stage with a cast that could have populated an entire village. This adaptation for smaller theatres reduces the number of cast members, trims select elements of the story and cuts some songs. Fear not, all your favorites remain including “How to Handle a Woman,” “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” and the title melody “Camelot.”
 
New orchestration by Steve Orich is beautifully performed by an impressive foursome with musical director Daniels Lincoln at the keyboard, Mark Margolies (reeds), Jacob Thompson (cello) and Kiersten Smith (violin).



There’s fleet-footed choreography by Jill Gorrie Rovatsos as well as fight choreography by Benjamin Cole which takes place on a set featuring mortar-and-stone walls and arches, moveable blocks of which become garden benches, a jousting review platform and indoor castle elements (set designer by Marty Burnett). Roll-down canvases featuring stained-glass motifs further delineate the indoor from the forest. High marks to light designer Matthew Novotny for the flickering wall sconces that give every appearance of flaming torch light. 

Sumptuous gowns with waterfall sleeves for Guenevere, spiral-laced tunics and knee-high boots for his majesty and the knights are courtesy of costume designer Elisa Benzoni. Winsome touches by hair and wig designer Peter Herman are the thick braid in Merlyn’s copious beard and Guenevere’s dramatic hair snood which looks like spun gold. 



Under the direction of Jeffrey B. Moss, the cast does the show proud but there are scenes in which they could have used additional elbow room to show rather than talk about the action. 
 
by Lynne Friedmann
 
 

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