CAMELOTBook and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Plaza Theatre Company
Director – Luke Hunt
Music Director – Dick Helmcamp
Scenic Designer – JaceSon P. Barrus
Lighting Designer – Cameron Barrus
Costume Designer – Tina Barrus
Sound Designer – G. Aaron Siler
Stage Manager – Ruthann Warwick
Assistant Stage Manager – Natalie Stephens
Properties Designer – Tammie Phillips
Assistant Properties Designer – Katy Phillips
Arthur – Hillard Cochran
Merlyn – Jay A. Cornils
Guenevere – Meredith Browning
Lancelot – Joel Lagrone
Pellinore – Ozzie Ingram
Mordred – David Phillips
Nimue – Kathy Lemons
Tom of Warwick – William Blanton
Sir Dinadan – Robert Shores
Sir Lionel – Jesse Bowron
Sir Sagramore – Michael Lain
Bliant – Nathan Glenn
Guilliam – Michael Sorter
Squire Dap – Joshua Cummins
Lady Anne – Molly Morgan
Lady Catherine – Stacey Blanton
Lady Sybil – Cherie Robinson
Page – Greg Hooper
Ensemble – Greg Hooper, Kendall Paredes, Lena Moralez, Maddie Almond, Madison Heaps, Noelle Mitchell, Rylee Mullens, and William Blanton
Reviewed Performance: 5/16/2014
Reviewed by Scott W. Davis , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Camelot is one of the most well known works from the famed Lerner and Loewe. Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) wrote Camelot in 1959 and it proceeded to Broadway the following year. The team, along with Moss Hart who directed the Broadway version in 1960, adapted T. H. White's “The Once and Future King” as their project, Camelot. Camelot opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on December 3, 1960. After 873 performances, the show closed on January 5, 1963. In 1961 Camelot represented at the Tony Awards with five nominations, four of which came to fruition as winners. Richard Burton won for Best Actor in a Musical, Oliver Smith won for Best Scenic Design (Musical), Adrian and Tony Duquette won for Best Costume Design (Musical), Franz Allers won for Best Conductor and Musical Director, and Julie Andrews was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical. It was revived several times as well as toured the US several more times. The most notable revival happened in 1993 where famous singer, Robert Goulet, who portrayed Sir Lancelot in the original production, played King Arthur, making him the only man to ever play both of Camelot’s lead characters on Broadway.
Plaza’s version doesn’t have a veteran like Robert Goulet. It did, however, have an extremely talented group of actors and creative team behind it to make a good production. The first impression when walking into the space was one of excitement due to the colors being used around the acting area. JaceSon P. Barrus’ set was minimal but did work well for a show being done in the round. A tree on one side of the room was lit beautifully in a dark blue hue. Throughout the entire grid Mr. Barrus weaved branches to make the space look like it was canopied under trees. Catty corner to the tree was a big stone wall. Around the room on the walls were several shields painted on the walls depicting many of the Knight’s of the Roundtable. There was a mural painted in the center of the room that had the same shields in a round pattern and that was it. It wasn’t until the show started that you realized the stone wall was an entrance that spun 360 degrees to make several different scenes in front of it. Every other scene simply used furniture to create the rest of the scenes. The minimal set made great use of the space and gave the actors a lot more room in which to play.
Lighting and sound were unfortunately a disappointment. Sound Designer G. Aaron Siler did a good job with the design. The problem was the feedback that plagued the production from time to time. Cameron Barrus’ lighting was extremely below par. With the massive amount of instruments in the grid thought for sure this was going to be a well lit show but no, it wasn’t. Several of the acting areas were dark and the lighting was so uneven through the show that you started to get a headache from watching the actors walk in and out of the dark spots. Secondly, the timing of the cues was slightly off. Most transitions were quite fast which, in the end, made the cues look rather odd.
Where this show takes a swing in the other direction is with costumes and props. Tina Barrus’ costumes were flawless and all represented the period well. King Arthur’s wardrobe looked expensive, with satin trim pieces around his tunic. The knights clothing was extremely good as well. Guinevere’s wardrobe dripped elegance. In the very first scene, the powder blue dress she wore was stunning. Every piece fit each character perfectly. The armor was incredibly well made. You could tell by how well the pieces fit that each had been hand made for each actor. Now I couldn’t tell what material she used to make the chainmail shirts on the knights but it was perfect. I thought it was real chain mail till I got a close up look in the lobby after the show. The costumes took this show to a whole new level.
Properties Designer Tammie Phillips deserves kudos. While there were not as many props as costumes, Ms. Phillip’s attention to detail could be seen in every piece used. All of the cutlery, from the swords to the daggers, looked, resembled, and even sounded like the real thing. The Excalibur sword was massive in size which made it a prominent piece whenever it came out.
At first I couldn’t understand why you would have a music director when all your music is canned. Dick Helmcamp’s time was well spent getting this group of actors to sing masterfully, and wow, what an amazing group of vocalists. It can be challenging with a large group to have that level of continuity. Camelot’s actors harmonized extremely well together and never lost sync with each other. Choreography for this production was rather basic at times. There is a great sword fight, though, that was choreographed wonderfully. Rachel Hunt’s high intensity fight scene was a blast to watch. There was so much action going on in three different places, your eyes got lost in the action. She made sure that no matter where you sat you got to see some action up close.
Luke Hunt’s direction may be slightly lax on the tech side but it’s not that way with the acting. The show ran like clockwork due to his diligence in the timing of the show. The scene changes were extremely quick which kept lag time down. Mr. Hunt’s blocking was quite stellar as well. Nothing got mundane or stagnant, and no matter where the actors were standing he made sure that they opened up to all sides of the audience. The choices made as far as casting goes were near perfect.
King Arthur definitely commanded respect in this production. Hillard Cochran did a great job in his portrayal of this icon. You got two things out of Mr. Cochran during this show – great vocals and movement. He was able to tone down his singing when he had to or belt when it was necessary. His blocking and audience awareness is not the only movement I’m talking about. During one scene he is dancing with Guenevere and Mr. Cochran made it look easy. The choreography during that whole scene was very complex but he never broke a sweat or missed a beat.
Sir Lancelot was the other strong male vocal in the show. Joel Lagrone’s deep boisterous voice resonated every time he spoke. While having this bold voice, Mr. Lagrone was still able to tone down his vocals enough to not overpower the rest of the ensemble during numbers. His dedication to the role showed not just with his voice but also visually. Mr. Lagrone sold the part, with his full head of dark black hair and his facial hair tightly groomed. The minute he entered you knew he was Lancelot.
Meredith Browning takes on the most demanding role in the show, Guenevere. This character is the only character that is onstage almost the entire time. The amount of quick changes this young lady had to go through is astronomical, but not once did she miss an entrance. Vocals once again were spot on. No wavering, no pitch problems, just an all around pleasure to listen to.
Jay A Cornils and Kathy Lemons make very brief appearances as Merlyn and Nimue, The Lady of the Lake, in the show. While being brief, it really was one of the most appealing scenes in the show. Visually, the scene was beautiful, with low-lying fog coming out behind Nimue. But vocally, the two knocked it out of the park. When Ms. Lemons started singing it almost became hypnotic. They were two wonderful singers who’s two voices worked extremely together.
Ozzie Ingram was the driving force behind Sir Pellinore, a knight with an extreme sense of humor. Every time Pellinore entered you couldn’t stop laughing. His ability to deliver those lines without cracking up amazed me. Mr. Ingram, along with Robert Shores, Jesse Bowron, Michael Lain and Nathan Glenn, complete the Knights of the Round Table. All of these gentlemen needed a round of applause for the fight scene they were involved in.
Mordred does his best to ruin things for everyone. David Phillips killed it in this role. He got my best performance of the night award. There were several things that Mr. Phillips did to make this character stand out. First off is his demeanor. He almost took the character to flamboyant but held back enough to where it played as though he’s into himself and himself only. Second, Mr. Phillips was very animated. He was one of the best actors using his hands and the rest of his body to finish telling the story. Finally, his diction was superb. I could hear everything Mr. Phillips said with no problems.
This show wouldn’t, couldn’t be what it is without the participation of the entire team. From ensemble to the leads, every person in this cast did their job to make this musical as good as it was. Plaza Theatre put together a strong production that is audience friendly to all ages. I believe that Lerner and Loewe would be proud of the version of Camelot Plaza Theatre Company has produced.
Plaza Theatre Company
111 S Main St, Cleburne, TX 76033
Plays through June 14th
Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 3:00 pm
Ticket prices are $15.00, $14.00 for seniors and HS/College students, and $13.00 for children 12 and under.
Get tickets and information at www.plaza-theatre.com or by calling 817-202-0600.