Thursday, March 15, 2007

Camelot (The SOB Review)

Camelot (The SOB Review) - Main Hall, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul, MN

** (out of ****)

First, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Camelot ranks among my least favorite musicals, so it was with a bit of trepidation and dread that I took in the current touring revival of the show.

My hopes were raised upon learning that the muddled book had been revised (by Michael A.M. Lerner, son of Alan Jay Lerner). Yet my underlying reason for returning to this musical once more was the casting of an excellent actor named York in a leading role. Unfortunately, to sum it all up, the Mike didn't work.

On the plus side, the look of this revival -- from John Iacovelli's lush set design to Marcy Froehlich's never-ending stream of gorgeous costume designs -- was completely evocative of that "one brief, shining moment known as Camelot." Even the incidental choreography by Dan Mojica and sword play by Sean Boyd served to further accentuate all that was visually stunning in this production.

But then there was the sound. Or the atrocious lack thereof. What a mess. So appalling was the sound design (the program "credits" Julie Ferrin), that any audience member demanding a refund should have been afforded one, no questions asked (I only hope that other audiences didn't have to endure similar glitches).

In addition to a grating assault on the ears via a succession of snaps and crackles popping from the show's speakers, the worst offense by far was the non-functioning microphone of Rachel York (Guenevere), the star I paid to see. The mike failed to register anything other than distracting static during her entire first, lengthy scene.

Ironically, that egregious offense only deepened my complete adoration and utter appreciation for this excellent musical actress, who demonstrated what a consummate pro she truly is. Never missing a beat, York persevered with amazing aplomb by gracefully taking it up more than a few additional notches so that even the folks in the rafters could hear her beautiful voice above the booming orchestra.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, the ravishing York is one of my absolute favorite actresses. As Guenevere, York found a new emotional, bittersweet depth in a completely convincing and winning performance.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for her leading man. As I said before, the Mike didn't work, and I meant that two ways. Not only is Michael York entirely too old to portray King Arthur -- the actor, who's completely unrelated to his leading lady, is 29 years her senior -- but even with full use of his own microphone, he was largely inaudible throughout the production, particularly when the orchestra played over him. And when he could be heard, he was mostly unconvincing as the benevolent visionary monarch.

Never was that more evident than when James Barbour (yes, that James Barbour) took to the stage as Lancelot with such gusto and style, that it was no wonder Guenevere pined for him over the milquetoast magnate. The contrast between Michael York and Barbour could not have been more jarring. And without resorting to a cartoony caricature, Barbour made this Lancelot rather appealing.

Speaking of cartoony caricatures, the fey villain is so overdone and is oh so tiresome. Shannon Stoeke's over-the-top portrayal of Arthur's incendiary son Mordred was simply tedious. Director Glenn Casale of Peter Pan fame should know better.

While there is much to recommend in this revival of Camelot, there's the looming possibility of being stuck with faulty Mikes all the way around. Ultimately, that makes for a risky gamble for anyone's big knight out.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Camelot Tour Gains New York Casting (November 8, 2006)

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At 16 March, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Imagine my surprise today as I decided to check out other reviews of the touring production of Camelot and found disturbingly similar complaints by Talkin' Broadway of the show when it first played Los Angeles.

Most disturbing is the recurrence of microphone problems for the lovely Rachel York. She deserves better, especially since she's the production's greatest asset.

At 16 March, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Post Script II: Check out the link to the review by Northern Misfit -- and I thought I was being critical!


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