Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
The WCP cast is multi-cultural and when young actor Sana Sarr, playing Tom, introduces the show with brief, spirited narrative, the energized production begins. It is the tale of Arthur (recognizable Robert Sean Leonard, very much looking the part), a king, who has the noble, generous dream of creating a community where people are respectful to one another and where honor is highly regarded. He is very much in love with Guenevere (the delectable Britney Coleman). She is a woman whose heart is expansive. The actress is physically graceful and she oftentimes smiles with warmth. Their relationship grows complex when Lancelot (Stephen Mark Lukas) arrives from France, is welcomed to The Round Table, and expresses his devotion to King Arthur. Lancelot and Guinevere are instantly smitten with one another and admit that this will always be so.
Lamos's first positive decision was his usage of Lee's script. Arthur relies upon counsel from the magician, Merlyn, but we never see him. Mordred (Patrick Andrews) is a key supportive character. He is an illegitimate son of Arthur's and appears, during the second act of the current production, to cause trouble within the Camelot paradise. The forward progression of the plot is facilitated by a talented ensemble contingent including actors Michael De Souza, Mike Evariste, Brian Owen, and Jon-Michael Reese. They sing, move about and joust.
This touching Camelot, one which is absorbing, affecting, and a pleasure to behold, rightly focuses upon the difficult, affectionate love triangle inhabited by Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot. We have three individuals who genuinely feel for and admire one another. Sensitive and truthful, they realize that the conundrum is one which will never be solved. The honesty within the realm of sadness is heartbreaking.
Robert Sean Leonard is a fine, seasoned actor who is a compassionate Arthur. His singing voice is not his foremost strength but he does well with "I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight?," "Camelot," in duet with Guenevere, "How to Handle a Woman," and, again with his lady, "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" The choice of Stephen Mark Lukas to portray Lancelot is wise. He is a handsome, youthful, muscular performer. His solo on the classic, ever plaintive "If Ever I Would Leave You" is precisely understated. Lamos, here, elects to push the tempo and avoid the temptation to milk the song for what it is worth. Instead, the number's delivery is even more poignant.
Britney Coleman's performance as Guenevere is quite stunning in every way. She has an electric lookher voice shines on "The Lusty Month of May" and during duets already mentioned, as well as the precious "I Loved You Once in Silence," also with Lancelot. She has been featured on the Westport stage previously and those not able to see her in Camelot miss a vivacious yet tender depiction.
Scenic designer Michael Yeargan provides a distant look at a castle on a screen situated at the rear of the stage. Robert Wierzel, lighting, shifts hues from reds to violets and many more as mood requires. These touches are perfect and allow this gem of a production to carry forth. Connor Gallagher devised dances aplenty with a cast who seem to celebrate. All wear the terrific outfits Wade Laboissonniere supplies. Eight hidden instrumentalists add live music for the presentation.
Mark Lamos is at the top of the theater game with Camelot. His choices are sometimes creativeindividuals, upon occasion, are masked. Further, he guides a core of multi-talented actors. The sum total is an inspirational show.
Camelot continues at Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut through November 5th, 2016. For tickets, call (203) 227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.