Review | Camelot
Whether you're a first-timer or have seen the musical Camelot a dozen times, the Richey Suncoast Theatre version playing weekends through March 23 holds surprises and delights.
Based on the legend of the fifth century Knights of the Round Table and its idealistic founder, King Arthur of England, it's a tale of love, betrayal and the eternal conflict between "might makes right" and "might for right," a philosophy as vexing today as it was 1,500 years ago. In Camelot, the starry-eyed Arthur hopes for a peaceful, loving world, but he's up against a society accustomed to crushing the perceived enemy to get its way.
The musical is filled with appealing characters and Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's hummable tunes, well done by music director Steve Schildbach's five-piece orchestra. Set designer Larry Shapiro's minimalist treatments let the audience concentrate on story and song instead of backgrounds and allows Marie Skelton's imaginative, multi-hued lighting to set the mood and her and Heather Clark's opulent costumes to set a noble tone.
Arguably most appealing is Richey Suncoast newcomer Vicky Stinnett, a beautiful mezzo soprano from Land O'Lakes who, as a radiant Queen Guenevere, enlivens every scene and mesmerizes with her pitch-perfect voice, expressive demeanor and winning grace. We can only hope that she becomes a Richey Suncoast regular, because she is a genuine talent who could enhance any production.
Stinnett is an excellent match for Bob Marcela's sincere, but hesitant, naive and unsophisticated King Arthur. Marcela's innocent look is precisely what the idealistic king would have at the outset, but the actor's bearing evolves throughout the play, even as Arthur himself comes to grips with cold reality. His metamorphosis is a joy to watch.
But this production has many splendid performances — comic virtuoso Bill Schommer as King Pellinore, the wayfaring pursuer of some magical beast that may or may not actually exist; Keith Surplus as a deliciously evil Mordred, Arthur's jealous, vengeful son from a youthful dalliance; Monica Underwood as a petulant Morgan Le Fey, a magician queen of an invisible castle who bends to Mordred's wicked wishes; Paul Mattes as the unforgiving Sir Dinadan; David Bergeron as the confident Sir Sagramore; and David Cruz as both Merlin and Sir Lionel.
A pleasant addition is David Bethards as Sir Lancelot, the arrogant, self-righteous Frenchman who eventually wins over his detractors, but wrecks Arthur's dreams. Bethards doesn't initially appear to cut such a figure, but he soon overcomes any doubts with his considerable acting skills, consistent French accent, fine voice and sincere bearing.
A lively ensemble completes the cast, all nicely coached by choreographer Amanda Witt.
Kudos to co-directors Linda Hougland and Keith Surplus, who guided this large, long (almost three hours) musical to such pleasant result.