Please don't let the more than three-hour length of the musical Camelot scare you away. The show, continuing weekends through March 16 at Stage West Community Playhouse, is a glorious feast for the eyes, ears and heart, and any good banquet is well worth three hours.
Besides, if music director Roberta Moger would increase the dirge-like tempo of the penultimate number, the potentially heart-stopping Guenevere, she could easily pare down the run time — and exponentially increase the drama of the closing moments to boot.
That said, Camelot is an evening of beautiful theater, thanks to splendid performances, lovely voices, an explosion of opulent costumes, dazzling lighting and stage effects, an impressive eight-piece orchestra, smooth set changes, and good direction by Barbara Everest.
Sarah Coit is mesmerizing as the gentle Queen Guenevere, who is loved by the medieval English King Arthur (an appealing Charles De Palo) and by Arthur's favorite knight, the romantic and ever-so-arrogant Lancelot du Lac, played with ingratiating charm by George Dwyer.
Ms. Coit's voice and diction are, literally, pitch-perfect, her lithe body the epitome of grace and poise.
Camelot's Arthur is no genius, but, under the tutelage of Merlin the Magician (an impish Peter Clapsis), he dreams of a perfect society that turns destructive "might makes right" into constructive "might for right."
Camelot hit Broadway in 1960, on the eve of John F. Kennedy's presidency, and Alan Jay Lerner's lyrics and book are charged with political implications that seem as relevant today as they did back then.
This is a script worth hearing, and the Stage West cast delivers it so you can, even when the balky body microphones throw tantrums.
The production is full of lovely surprises and grand moments: lyric soprano Gwendolyn Battle's call to Arthur, Follow Me, as she plays the forest temptress Nimue; W. Paul Wade, Leslie Richards and David Stenger as the braggart knights Dinadan, Sagramore and Lionel; Jessica Nichol as a bewitching and beautiful sorceress Morgan Le Fey; and tiny Noah Berlinger as Horrid the Dog.
Dan Brijbag is simply electrifying as Arthur's evil, illegitimate son Mordred, groveling at the slightest threat, then cackling with glee when he sees his well-meaning father's carefully-built dream crumbling and his love slipping away.
Costume designer Madeline Child and assistants Ann Lusick, Beverly Dube-O'Looney and Eileen Bernard deserve special notice for the well-made, colorful and substantial outfits, especially the many gowns worn by Guenevere and the armor worn by the knights. There's no faking it here, right down to the deadly-looking swords that clang with realism during the fights.
One place where the show could use some tweaking is the crowd scenes, when the large cast lines up in rows like a chorale instead of gathering in more natural-looking groups that would create the feeling of realistic village life.