A Legendary Musical

Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

Be a witness to the great Camelot and join the legendary King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia. Camelot is an ambitious musical and the final production of the 2023 season (before they ready themselves for the Christmas season). Gone are Merlin, Nimue and others from the original Broadway production by Lerner and Loewe, and I believe that is a good thing. Let me explain.

Remarkably, Camelot premiered in Toronto in 1960, but it ran an astonishing four and a half hours. It was pared down somewhat in subsequent performances, yet was still a lengthy musical with quite a number of characters to sort out. Television producer David Lee adapted Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot with a tighter script, which led to a stronger focus on chivalry and relationships between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot and on the villain Mordred. Magic is only implied, there’s plenty of humour and memorable quotes, and Guinevere is more of a modern woman. This David Lee adapted script, combined with the wonderful songs by Frederick Loewe, placed in the hands of director David Hogan (and all the other capable folks at VPP), is a winner!   

Arthur, using his nickname Wart, meets Guinevere before their arranged marriage and they quickly fall in love. Arthur explains that he became King when he pulled the sword, named Excalibur, from the stone. As a married couple, they have ambitious plans for Camelot, their court and palace, where might shall be used for right, and courts, not swords, will decide outcomes. This appeals to Lancelot du Lac, a Frenchman, who travels to Camelot to earn a knighthood at the round table. Despite having great discipline, skill and faith, Lancelot falls for Guinevere. They both remain loyal to the king, resisting their passion for each other. But when the king’s bitter illegitimate son appears, he’s determined to find a way to destroy the king and take Camelot for himself. He discovers their secret love, using this to his advantage in his mission of destruction.

Michael Vanhevel is a wonderful Arthur. As a professional crooner who’s comfortable on stage, Vanhevel expertly handles the demands of the role. Kaleigh Gorka, a familiar songster to VPP audiences in Starbright Christmas ‘21 and ‘22, is also wonderful as Guinevere. Tonatiuh Abrego, with his strong tenor voice, shines as Lancelot. I was immediately won over by his powerful rendition of “C’est Moi”. Teddy Moynihan, who rocked the Drayton Entertainment stage as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, incites the dark side as Mordred. The entire cast is talented, and hopefully inspiring to the capable young Iain Vanklinken, who plays a source of hope in the finale as young Tom, aka Sir Thomas Malory.

The memorable music of Camelot is expertly performed, with Mark Payne, Ben Bolt-Martin and Leah Grandmont playing live on stage. All of the musicians are flawless as they evoke a variety of moods for songs such as “The Lusty Month of May”, “The Seven Deadly Virtues”, “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” and the title song “Camelot”.

The stage is transformed into a natural setting which includes a thick tree with overhanging branches and leaves, stone steps and a floor that at times resembles moss or grass. Natural hues are used and seasons change with the lighting. A bedchamber is created organically using a large drape and a sheepskin. The costumes consist of “updated period” costumes, with knights in black, royals in rich patterns and deep reds, pieces of armour, gauntlets and hennins (cone headdresses) with a bit of bling. The actors use mild British accents that seem fairly natural for the setting.

The legend of King Arthur and his court will forever be deeply ingrained in our stories, our art and our imagination. Numerous authors have used Arthurian legend in their stories and many Arthurian movies have been made. Jacqueline Kennedy used the word Camelot to describe the years of her husband’s administration, and the soundtrack of this musical was played throughout the Whitehouse. If you want to be musically transported back to simpler times, or to the days of chivalry at King Author’s court, Camelot is for you!

Camelot continues at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia until October 29th. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-717-7694.

Photo: Back Row: Mark Payne, Kaleigh Gorka, Tonatiuh Abrego, Ben Bolt-Martin, Leah Grandmont. Front Row: Ruaridh MacDonald, Alex Baerg, Teddy Moynihan, Michael Vanhevel, Billy Lake, Jason Lemmon. Photo by Diane O’Dell

Music by Frederick Loewe
Book by Alan Jay Lerner
Adapted by David Lee
New orchestrations by Steve Orich
Directed and choreographed by David Hogan
Musical Direction by Mark Payne
Performed by Michael Vanhevel, Tonatiuh Abrego, Kaleigh Gorka, Alex Baerg, Ben Bolt-Martin, Tony De Luca, Leah Grandmont, Billy Lake, Jason Lemmon, Ruaridh MacDonald, Teddy Moynihan, Mark Payne, David Robilliard, Iain Vanklinken
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
October 10 to October 29, 2023
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes


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