Susan Granger’s review of “Camelot” (Westport Country Playhouse: Oct., 2016)
Artistic director Mark Lamos concludes the Westport Country Playhouse season with a freshly inventive, far more intimate take on the timeless Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe musical, focusing on the characters, not the grandiosity, delivering a carefully crafted interpretation of the Arthurian legend, filled with noble ideals and forbidden romance, with considerable insight and emotional impact.
Striding on-stage Robert Sean Leonard embodies the perennially conflicted, newly crowned King Arthur, voicing his nervous concern in “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight?”
Yet from the moment Britney Coleman, as feisty Guenevere, begins to warble “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” you can’t take your eyes off her. With a lilting, lyrical soprano, reminiscent of Julie Andrews (who originated the part), this lithe actress moves with seductive delicacy of someone wired with explosives.
That enhances this shorter, sexier version, highlighted by her taunting and teasing the virtuous French Knight, Lancelot du Lac, portrayed by Stephen Mark Lukas, whose commanding presence and utter lack of humility are obvious in “C’est Moi.
Their adulterous attraction becomes fodder for smarmy, suspicious Mordred (Patrick Andrews), who exposes their tryst, condemning the lovers.
The production is well served by a stalwart supporting cast, including Michael De Souza, Mike Evariste, Brian Owen and Jon-Michael Reese, while local actor Sana Sarr acquits himself admirably as young Tom of Warwick.
Based on T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” it’s adapted by David Lee and choreographed by Connor Gallagher with Michael Yeargan’s austere/abstract scenic design, Wade Laboissonniere’s Middle Ages costumes, Robert Wierzel’s bold lighting, Domonic Sack’s textured sound, and Wayne Barker’s eight musicians utilizing new orchestrations by Steve Orich.
Viewed at a preview performance, it’s a sure-fire heart-tugger and marvelously entertaining for longtime fans and newcomers alike.
“In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot for happ’ly ever-after’ing than here in Camelot!”
Indeed, “Camelot” has already been extended through November 5. Call the box-office at 203-227-4177 or go to www.westportplayhouse.org