Musicals at Richter

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Critic's Review :

Richter's 'Camelot' opulent, well-acted

By Chesley Plemmons

If ever a musical deserved a royal cloak, it is "Camelot," Lerner and Loewe's ode to King Arthur and the Roundtable, now at Danbury's Musicals at Richter. The popular outdoor theater has risen to the challenge with such an opulently outfitted production you'd think they just got a check from a wealthy patron.

Against the single, but effectively playable set  the facade of a stone castle  the costumes dazzle with princely elegance. With such fancy feathers to lavish on the actors, one can understand why director George Vollano allows the cast to spend an inordinate amount of time parading.

(Maressa Gershowitz)
Guenevere (Priscilla Squiers) listens to King Arthur (David Roth) extol the splendors of his castle home in the Lerner and Loewe musical "Camelot," at Musicals at Richter in Danbury through July 4.

Pageantry and high mindedness, however, are at the heart of "Camelot.'' So much so that it's often approached by audiences and producers alike with the awe reserved for hallowed works.

But Lerner's work he wrote book and lyrics nearly always runs over three hours and desperately needs a director who will prune the flourishes and leave the flesh and blood. King Arthur's story, regal as it is, is about three real people caught in a romantic triangle. Don't bore us with bowing, bowing, and more bowing.

Exemplary as Richter's costumes are, costumes alone can't make a show. Happily  since "Camelot'' depends more than most works on performers who can act as well as they can sing  Richter is blessed with a first-rate trio of performers in the leads.

In his Richter debut, David Roth as King Arthur sings and acts with sensitivity.

Priscilla Squiers, fresh from a stint as Guenevere at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, reprises the role here. Her artful interpretation reaffirms her status as one of the area's most professional and appealing actresses.

The two of them bring a genuine sense of love and companionship to their roles. But regal bearing notwithstanding, Arthur and Guenevere are as vulnerable as any couple down the road from the castle. Their fall from paradise is all the more compelling when we identify with their humanity.

Colm Keegan exudes a romantic air as Lancelot, the knight who falls in love with Guenevere. He subtly blends confusion with heartbreak as their affair threatens his deep friendship with Arthur. Not without a wry comic sense, he's funny in Lancelot's valentine to himself, the self-congratulatory "C'est Moi!''

Although they must struggle with cliched roles, David Rigg amuses as the old coot Pellinore, and Christian Smythe is properly hissable as the conniving Mordred.

A large ensemble fills out the many parts of ladies and knights of the court as well as villagers, and everyone seems to be walking in confident shoes.

It's surprising that in such a lengthy show there are barely a dozen songs, many of them similar in melody and construction to Lerner and Loewe's previous show, the brilliant "My Fair Lady." Clearly "Camelot'' puts story first, music second.

There's little dancing to speak of. It's a truism in theater that when the lyricist also writes the script, you can forget about dancing. What author wants his golden words pushed aside for a bunch of hoofers? "Camelot'' has a few merry jigs and that's about it.

Musicals at Richter seems to be in a Catch-22 with regard to amplification. Too many of its productions have suffered from over-miking, with a screeching, tinny sound replacing the warmth of the singers' voices.

With "Camelot'' at least on opening night there was no obvious electronic boosting. While that was a welcome decision, it remains difficult for unassisted voices to carry in an open-air arena. The happy balance may be somewhere in between.

"Camelot'' continues through July 4 at Musicals at Richter, Richter Park, 100 Aunt Hack Road, Danbury. Performances are Fridays through Sundays at 8:30 p.m.; the grounds open for picnicking at 7:15. Tickets are $14; 12 for seniors, $10 for children. Call (203) 748-6873.

copyright © 2001 by The News-Times


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