|Kevin S. Martin as Arthur (left) and Dennis Britten as Merlyn. Photo by Ammon Riley.|
BCT Experiments with the Elements, Magic of Camelot
By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
|Craig Limoges as Sir Sagramore. Photo by Ammon Riley|
What works for us? First, the phrase “stripped-down” applies to the size of the cast, not the script. Britten is to be congratulated for including every scene and every song written by Lerner and Loewe, including several that are frequently cut. It is delightful to be able to see and hear (without time-travel to the 1964
London production) the
entire score. Britten also makes excellent use of the facility by occasionally
putting his strong vocal ensemble into the aisles – thus expanding the
available space and bringing the audience into the midst of the action. The minimalist
set is beautiful, and the use of projection to change the backdrop above the
castle walls is very effective.
|Marian Horton as Guinevere. Photo by Ammon Riley.|
In many ways, “Camelot” rises and falls on the strength of its Guinevere, and Marian Horton’s crystal-clear soprano lifts the production to some of its highest moments. This lovely young woman is perfectly cast, and her acting is as fluid and natural as her singing. Her performance is influenced by both Julie Andrews and Vanessa Redgrave, but the character is all her own.
Another key anchor to the show is the doddering King Pellinore, who is given short shrift in many stagings. Donald Cleland’s portrayal is a delight, as he provides both comic relief and continuity in his role as a sounding-board for Arthur’s musings. In a show this long, pacing is critical, and Cleland’s comic timing really helps to keep things moving.
Speaking of short-shrift, the character of Arthur’s illegitimate son Mordred is often dealt with as no more than an afterthought. Matthew Sunderland’s Mordred allows for no such slight – although he first appears late in the show, his booming voice, dripping with malevolent sarcasm, commands the stage whenever he is present. His powerful baritone complements several ensemble numbers, and his solo performance on “The Seven Deadly Virtues” is particularly riveting.
The three knights who comprise the principal men’s chorus,
while not spectacular soloists, blend well – and each one shines individually
in "Take Me To The Fair."The women’s chorus (ladies of the court) is
even stronger, and they provide a solid vocal foundation throughout the show.
|Matthew Sunderland as Mordred. Photo by Ammon Riley.|
What doesn’t work? First, “Camelot” is a long show that is made longer by the decision to split it into three acts. The extra intermission contributes nothing, and interrupts the flow of the action. Second, the aisle-way-ensemble numbers aforementioned favorably above need modulation in some places – particularly in the last scene where they almost drown out Arthur’s closing monologue.
Scot Crandal, who plays Sir Lancelot, has a great voice and he uses it well. However, his performance is somewhat static – he simply needs to move more, especially in the comic “C’est Moi.” Finally, the role of Arthur is frequently filled by actors who are not great vocalists (think Richard Burton, Laurence Harvey, Richard Harris) but whose acting skill allows them to virtually “talk” parts of their songs. Kevin S. Martin, despite a commanding physical presence, is clearly not comfortable singing some of the material, and his performance would benefit from incorporating this technique.
Despite these opening night problems, vibes from the audience were quite positive. There is a lot of talent on that stage, and director Britten generally uses it to good effect. We hope that Beaverton Civic Theatre will continue to tackle challenging projects like this one.
Beaverton Civic Theatre’s production of “Camelot” runs through Sunday, October 14th at the
Library Auditorium. Beaverton City