The current production of Camelot in Forest Park is a Muny premiere even though the show has been seen in eight previous seasons.
The difference is that this year’s staging uses the small cast version of the show, in which the cast, length, and orchestration have all been reduced. This edition was created to meet the needs of small theaters, but it works well at the spacious Muny, too.
For the small cast version, David Lee adapted the original book by Alan Jay Lerner, which is based The Once and Future King by T.H. White. At the start of Lee’s adaptation, a company of 18 revelers comes onto the stage, and one of them announces they will tell the story of King Arthur and his court. Eight revelers step into named roles. The rest form the ensemble. Everyone helps reset the stage.
The basic elements of the story appear in both version: Arthur’s courtship of Guenevere, the founding of the Round Table, the arrival of Lancelot, the miracle that cause Lancelot and Guenevere to fall in love, the treachery of Arthur’s illegitimate son, Mordred, and the unavoidable war that destroys the Round Table.
A few elements are omitted in Lee’s adaptation, including Merlyn, Nimue, King Pellinore, Morgan Le Fey, and much of the incidental humor. I missed Nimue’s beautiful number, “Follow Me,” in which she lures Merlyn away from the court, but I appreciated the streamlined storytelling that makes the show fast-moving as well as moving.
Director Matt Kunkel’s production concept recognizes the limitations of the small company of revelers presenting the show. Instead of luxuriating in storybook finery, scenic designer Ann Beyersdorfer creates a flexible performing space from basic structures such as staircases on wheels. Their configuration can easily be changed to provide a variety of upper levels appropriate for the action.
The intimacy of the production admirably fits Camelot’s score and the new orchestrations by Steve Orich, which are played beautifully by the Muny orchestra under musical director Abdul Hamid Royal.
Tristan Raines’s costumes are an eclectic mixture of historical, contemporary, and fanciful designs. The production benefits impressively from Beth Crandall’s choreography, Shelby Loera’s lighting, John Shivers and David Patridge’s sound, Kylee Loera’s video, and Tommy Kurzman’s wigs.
Robert Petkoff as Arthur, Shereen Pimentel as Guenevere, and Brandon S. Chu as Lancelot are splendid singers, and they evoke deep sympathy for their characters’ predicament. No resolution is possible for the people in a love triangle when the last thing any of them wants to do is hurt one of the others.
Barrett Riggins makes Mordred a figure of unmistakable menace. The fine supporting cast includes Evan Ruggiero as Sir Dinadan, Daryl Tofa as Sir Lionel, Sarah Quinn Taylor as Ser Sagramore, and Riley Carter Adams as Tom of Warwick. Completing the ensemble are Kelly Berman, Sydney Chow, Jacob Guzman, Maggie Kurtz, Kiara Lee, Sage Lee, Nathaniel Mahone, Spencer Davis Milford, Brendon Stimson, and Kristin Yancy.
Camelot continues at 8:15 p.m. through June 28 at The Muny.
Photo by Phillip Hamer