MLOC Productions Inc. are presenting Camelot at the Phoenix Theatre in Elwood from November 4th to 12th. Following the success of My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe teamed up again to develop this show based on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Camelot begins with the marriage of Guenevere and King Arthur, and the subsequent organisation of Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. When Sir Lancelot joins the Round Table and becomes friends with Arthur, tensions arise as he and Guenevere fall in love. The conflict between their love for each other and their duty to Arthur grows as they struggle to do the right thing. MLOC’s production stars David Higgins as Arthur, Susie McCann as Guenevere and Peter Phillips as Lancelot, with musical direction from Danny Forward. Directed by MLOC regular Judy Sullivan (in her 14th role as Director for the company, no less!), this production promises to be emotional, entertaining and a lot of fun.
The story of King Arthur and his knights has been adapted and interpreted into many different forms over time, from the novel The Once and Future King by T.H. White, which provided the basis for Lerner and Loewe’s musical, to a Disney feature film, The Sword in the Stone, and the Monty Python-based musical, Spamalot. More recent adaptations include the 2008 British television series Merlin, and the 2011 series, Camelot. Unlike both of these recent adaptations which draw on darker elements of the story, MLOC’s production of Camelot focuses on the love triangle and friendship between the show’s main characters: Arther, Guenevere and Lancelot. Director Judy Sullivan wanted to develop the emotions of the show more fully after seeing the love triangle as ‘static’ in other productions, and was quick to point out that the leading actors “absolutely do justice to the roles and the era.”
As Musical Director Danny Forward pointed out, the Arthurian legends have “something for everyone – romance, drama, passion, swashbuckling battles, magic.” The recent successes of not one, but two television adaptations, Merlin and Camelot, are telling of the timeless appeal of this story. Forward describes the musical as “epic.”
Director Judy Sullivan has a been a fan of the show since the original Australian season in the sixties. Of MLOC’s production, she said that she hopes “that our usual patrons will go away and say this is the best show MLOC has done. The ingredients are all there…intelligent and committed cast, hard working production team. New patrons will be more than pleasantly surprised at the entertainment value.” Sullivan said that previous interpretations of Camelot that she attended were mostly “…sing, speak… get off!” The emotions shown throughout the cast of this production are spirited, and in particular Sullivan hopes to enliven the bawdiness of the period. This includes relocating the song ‘Fie on Goodness’ to take place in a bathhouse, which she said “responds well to the words of the song.”
Apart from the intricacies of the love triangle between the three protagonists, Sullivan said “the one thrust of the story, interspersed with Merlin’s ‘magic’, is that here the democratic process was acknowledged and developed. ” In this sense, the Knights of the Round Table are a raw example of early government, built around Arthur. As Sullivan says, “love just happens to get in the way.”
Another MLOC regular, Danny Forward has been Musical Director for previous productions of CATS, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and, earlier this year, Pippin. Forward’s experience has been one of ‘cutting out the fat’ for a large part, as the show is considered long for today’s standards, even running an hour and half shorter than the original production. As well as cutting out a lot of dance and “seemingly endless processional music,” and paring back the Entr’acte, Forward said over 500 bars faced “the wrath of my soft lead pencil.” Maintaining the integrity of the piece while cutting down on the running time was one of the biggest challenges, as both Forward and Sullivan are great fans of Lerner and Loewe’s score. Forward noted that the score reflects all the fundamental elements of the legends: “the grandeur and majesty of the court, the magic of the enchanted forest, the passion of the love stories, the drama of the tragic resolution. “
Both Forward and Sullivan agreed to reinstate Guenevere’s song, ‘I Loved You Once In Silence,’ which was cut from the original production part-way into the run. Audiences will also be treated to two wonderful ensemble numbers, ‘The Jousts’ and ‘Guenevere.’ Forward said of ‘The Jousts’ in particular, “it’s edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting stuff… it has an amazing energy.”
Both Sullivan and Forward speak very highly of the cast, with Sullivan saying in particular, “I feel so strongly that this cast has grabbed, with both hands, the energy and understanding required for this show.” Susie McCann (Guenevere) said that both directors have been wonderful to work with, and the cast and crew have developed a real sense of community during the rehearsal process.
After 13 shows as Director, Sullivan said, “this is the best production I have had the pleasure of directing for MLOC.” Both Sullivan and Forward admitted there were goose bumps and teary eyes in the room during the Sitzprobe rehearsal, which certainly bodes well for an emotional and entertaining experience.
- emily.mercurio / Stage whispers