Camelot Musical
By Lerner and Loewe

   I had the fortune or perhaps the misfortune to attend the latest production of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot. It is in this stage format that the lyrics of Alan Lerner can be truly felt - often sarcastic, full of light hearted attempts to poke fun at the legend. Based partly on T. H. White's The Once and Future King, the plot begins with the arrival of Guinevere to Camelot and ends with Arthur's forces arrayed outside Joyous Gard. In other words, it rips the middle of the story out, presenting it as if it were all, and leaves one to believe that Arthur perishes fighting Lancelot and not at Camlan. Lerner's Arthur is a sad king seemed destined to attempt greatness but always aware of his future failure, both in love and in battle. He is not the bright, shining king, nor the once and future. The story seems compressed and lacking depth. If not for a few bright nuggets of song, it probably would have failed because it really needs to be presented on a small stage and in a vaudeville manner or in film where a larger set can take away from the mundane talking lyrics. Lerner's words are more political than historic. He embosses his sad story with pranksterish tricks and light-hearted foolishness. The best version of this musical in my opinion is that of the film version with Harris and Redgrave.

Theatre of the Stars Production
   Robert Goulet has returned to play the role of the aged Arthur. On December 3, 1960, at the Majestic Theatre in New York, he first starred opposite Richard Burton, when as a young tenor, he thrilled the audiences with his Lancelot. The voice is still there but he was an aged Arthur. His voice in song soared but the requirements of speech in an auditorium like the grand Fox Theatre in Atlanta produced a quality that seemed rushed and loud and at times, tired. I could not fail but picture the quiet, sorrowful voice of Richard Harris in the screen version of the play. How the age of cinema with its close-up and quality sound have reduced the joy of plays such as those of Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe on a large stage. The one resounding high-note of this production was the superb, often hilarious Pellinore played by James Lawrence (also playing Merlin). The almost vaudeville quality of his performance, with the simple costume and the walk and bounce as he talked, even served to break up the players. Backed up by other veteran actors and singers, including Michael Goulet as Mordred, the production was entertaining but not up to the quality of the recent Broadway hits that I have seen such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. The sets were less dramatic and colorful and failed to balance the action scenes against the spoken. The slow-motion strobe effect fight scene with Lancelot could not fully replace a true action sequence and the scene in which Lancelot raises Sir Lionel from death (and the first indication of the coming love of Guinevere and Lancelot is allowed to bloom) utterly failed to grip me. All I could picture were the eyes and emotional struggle so poignantly portrayed by Redgrave when she played Gwen.
   After reviewing my notes on the musical, it appears that the play was cut in places to reduce the time or the fuller set requirements. For whatever the reasons, if in the future it is resurrected, let it be in an outdoor setting with fuller, richer sets, jousting, fights, romance, sorrow and vaudeville.