Former artistic director Robert Johanson has returned to Paper Mill for the company’s new “Camelot.” His affinity for musicals from Broadway’s golden age is clearly in evidence in this revival, which is abundant with pageantry and spectacle from designer Michael Anania. The production also boasts the kind of dream cast that Broadway can envy. The bountiful score by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner has seldom been so well served.
Brent Barrett is an athletic and virile medieval king — and an Arthur who can really sing. His lyrically robust voice frames both the title song and “How to Handle a Woman” with distinction and a haunting romanticism. A ravishing Glory Crampton is spirited and sweetly captivating as Guenevere. Crampton was also Paper Mill’s Gigi and Eliza Doolittle, and she possesses a radiant singing voice.
The Lancelot of Matt Bogart, a sainted French warrior in gold-tinted armor, is handsomely noble and persuasive, and his rich voice sails beautifully on “C’est Moi.” Johanson has directed Lancelot and Guenevere with a seething sense of harnessed passion.
George S. Irving offers an “absolute cartoon of a man,” doubling devilishly as both the worldly wise magico Merlyn and a dithery Pellinore. Celebrating a mere half-century as a pivotal comic master in musical theater, Irving gets yuks on all his exits, accenting the often dreary narrative with a swift kick in the butt.
Barret Foa, as the steely Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, is delightfully wicked, and this production restores all three of his deliciously plotted numbers, “The Seven Deadly Virtues,” “Fie on Goodness” and the oft-omitted “The Persuasion.”
The musical numbers are staged with flair and zest. Thom Heyer’s resplendent costume designs are regally distinctive, especially the flowing whites of the ladies in waiting. Anania’s sumptuous, pop-up picture book set design is accented by spired castle towers, stained glass rose windows, flowery garlands and tapestries with unicorns at play. The amber-tinted light design by F. Mitchell Dana gives the production a soft fairy tale glow.