THEATER REVIEW: “Camelot” @ theREP, 11/29/16

December 2nd, 2016, 2:00 pm by Greg
Leenya Rideout as Guineviere, Oliver Thornton as Lancelot, and Kevin McGuire as King Arthur (photo: Douglas C. Liebig)

Leenya Rideout as Guenevere, Oliver Thornton as Lancelot, and Kevin McGuire as King Arthur

Review by Greg Haymes
Photograph by Douglas C. Liebig

“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
That was known as Camelot…”

For baby boomers, it’s nearly impossibly to separate the beloved Lerner & Lowe musical from the ground-breaking ’60s era of President John F. Kennedy, politically speaking the most hopeful time of the late 20th century.

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But in the shadow of the most recent presidential election, it would seem that “Camelot” and its musical tale of King Arthur’s revolutionary concept of justice is not much more than a painful reminder of what could have been. A magical, almost mystical land like “Brigadoon,” speaking in Broadway terms…

Currently on the boards at theREP in downtown Albany, director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill’s hand guides “Camelot” through its paces with some intriguing twists and turns – most notably casting the actors as musicians. Or was it the musicians as actors? Either way, it was brilliant, and the precise choreography required to pull it off was nearly seamless. Kudos also must go to musical director Josh D. Smith.

But ultimately, this was not the production of “Camelot” to revive the much-needed sense of optimism that the Kennedys once inspired. It is, in short, an unsatisfying journey.

At the center of “Camelot” is King Arthur, portrayed by the usually reliable Cap Rep veteran Kevin McGuire. On opening night, however, McGuire seemed surprisingly understated, internalizing too much the torment of the decision that he must make between love and duty.

As Guenevere, Leenya Rideout exhibited a magnificent voice and musical talent, playing guitar, mandolin and violin along the way.

But it wasn’t until the entrance of Lancelot (Oliver Thornton) midway through the first act that the production was really brought to life. Whether playing for laughs (his puffed-up “C’est Moi”) or love (“If Ever I Would Leave You”), Thornton took command of the stage.

All in all, opening night felt like a somewhat lackluster performance that may grow stronger as the run progresses. Let’s hope so. We all need the injection of optimism that “Camelot” can deliver…

“This is the time of King Arthur, when we shall reach for the stars! This is the time of King Arthur, when violence is NOT strength, and compassion is NOT weakness! WE ARE CIVILIZED!”

“Camelot” continues at theREP on Tuesdays-Sundays through Friday, December 24. Ticket prices range from $25-$65.

SECOND OPINIONS
Bob Goepfert’s review at WAMC
Shawn Stone’s review at The Alt
Excerpt from Steve Barnes’ review at The Times Union: “Capital Repertory Theatre’s new version of the mid-20th-century Lerner and Loewe classic ‘Camelot’ is so clearly a show under the complete command of its director, designers and actors that I spent much of Tuesday’s opening-night performance, and hours afterward, wondering what was wrong with me for being utterly unmoved by it. Among the bricks heaved at reviewers when audiences don’t like their verdict is, rather than engaging the critics’ arguments, to say, ‘You didn’t get it.’ Normally I disagree. ‘Oh, I got it all right,’ I’ll say, ‘and I wasn’t impressed by what I got.’ But with Capital Rep’s ‘Camelot,’ I plead guilty.”
Excerpt from Paul Lamar’s review at The Daily Gazette: Backed by a tech staff that brilliantly creates real-world and other-worldly effects; by the hard-working musical director Josh D. Smith, whose clever arrangements showcase the multi-talented cast; and inventive choreographer Freddy Ramirez, Mancinelli-Cahill beautifully paces the show. Ensemble numbers, like ‘The Lusty Month of May’ and ‘Take Me to the Fair,’ pulse with humor and joy. Ironic songs about class — ‘I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight’ and ‘What Do the Simple Folk Do?’ — benefit from the spot-on diction of McGuire and Rideout. And introspective tunes, like ‘How to Handle a Woman,’ ‘Before I Gaze at You Again’ and ‘I Loved You Once in Silence,’ appropriately take their time to unfold.”