In the final moments of “Camelot,” musical version of the Arthurian legend by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music), the beleaguered king on the eve of battle tries to insure the survival of his dream by instructing a young boy:
“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.”
In the current South Bend Civic Theatre production, there are several “brief shining moments” but not enough to make the three-hour show seem anything more than just long.
It is not the fault of this production. I have never seen one that did not make me check my watch after the first hour and a half. Despite it’s now-classic ballad “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “Camelot” cannot escape the boringly ponderous finale, “Guenevere,” or the unending “Lusty Month of May” and “Take Me To the Fair.” And “The Joust,” an obvious “Ascot Gavotte” wannabe, doesn’t even come close to the “My Fair Lady” chorale.
That aside, SBCT veteran Ted Manier does a more than credible job as the legendary king, who finds his marriage and his kingdom crumbling before the machinations of his bastard son, Mordred. Arthur’s struggle to maintain the high ideals of his round table when faced with the increasing attraction between his wife and his champion knight is movingly delineated in his throne room “Proposition.”
As Guenevere, Maggie Mountsier displays a clear soprano and a gentle sense of humor. Her character warms as she battles her deep affection for Arthur and her growing love for Lancelot (Quinton McMutuary). There is no real connection between the supposedly star-crossed lovers, unfortunately making their emotional tension less than believable.
Steve Chung delivers a humorously grouchy King Pellinore, who arrives in Camelot in his search for the Questing Beast and, like Sheridan Whiteside, comes to dinner and stays for years. Gary Oesch is properly bearded as Merlin who lives backward in time until bewitched by Nimue (Pam Gunterman) and fails to warn Arthur about Mordred. (Joshua Napierkowski).
The evil offspring is actually one of my favorite characters, as is his lyrical outline of “The Seven Deadly Virtues.” Unfortunately Napierkowski stomps about (everyone else has soft shoes) and takes the sly usurper way over the top, delivering his song so rapidly that the delicious lyrics are mostly unintelligible.
Director David Chudzynski, who designed the set with Jill Hillman, keeps the action as fluid as possible. His impressive set features a large circular Celtic design on center stage, with hanging set pieces and changing lights to indicate varied moods and locations.
One major plus in this production is the absence of individual microphones for the performers. This seems to have been a large part of the sound problem that has plagued shows in the Willson Mainstage Auditorium. There is no difficulty here in hearing the singers/actors and, with only a few exceptions, both lyrics and dialogue are easily understood.
This does not apply to the nine piece orchestra which is offstage somewhere and visible to performers via a video screen on the light booth. The lush Loewe score is given short shrift and seemed to indicate the need for a good deal more rehearsal.
“CAMELOT” plays through Sept. 25 with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. For reservations and information, call 234-1112 or visit www.sbct.org