Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 6, 2009


Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT
through September 19
by Karolina Sadowicz

The tale of Camelot begins with a somber, apprehensive prologue. King Arthur is about to go to war against Lancelot, his beloved friend and knight, who stole off with the queen. The story is so familiar, and yet the mournful chorus and rumbling orchestra make the blood rush with anticipation as the audience is whisked away to the day it all began.

Broadway regular Bradley Dean commands love and respect as a gregarious, playful King Arthur. Erin Davies as Guenevere is lithe and alluring in her vanity and lust for romance, and awakens in her king a desire to be a great man. In their first encounter they charm and disarm each other with such delight that it's hard to believe there is heartbreak ahead.

"Camelot" exceeds expectations from the first note. Though the theatre is small and intimate, the sound, light, and performances are Broadway caliber. Richly costumed by designer Alejo Vietti, the production is an ongoing exhibition of gowns, fur capes, and armor that ooze with royal splendor and lush textures. The simple but versatile set changes drastically with evocative, dramatic lighting, and creates a very strong sense of place.

There is, however, nothing static about the performance. Superb vocal performances from the leads and ensemble carry notes of joy, excitement, longing, and anguish, making each moment bigger and more powerful. French actor Maxime de Toledo is effortlessly charming as Lancelot, and affable both in his hopeful grandeur and surprising humility. No one is surprised when Guenevere gives him her heart, because the audience has already done the same.

Ronn Carroll plays a hilarious Pellinore and carefree foil to an increasingly mature and troubled Arthur. Adam Shonkwiller slithers about as the villainous Mordred, impossible to like even before he orchestrates the downfall of Guenevere, Lancelot, and all of Camelot. Creative staging by director Rob Ruggiero makes use of the aisles, allowing the actors to make the performance both more intimate and grand.

Full of emotional peaks, beautiful music, and flawlessly timed humor, "Camelot" is an absolute delight that can be relished for days after the final bow.