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Camelot

A slew of credited producers feel it is time to revise and resurrect Lerner and Loewe's melodious but flawed 1960 tuner "Camelot" and let it work its way back east for a Broadway revival. Built around Michael York's gently regal if vocally unsteady King Arthur, abetted by Rachel York's luminous Guenevere and James Barbour's transcendent Lancelot, this production exudes an engaging warmth and infectious humor.

A slew of credited producers feel it is time to revise and resurrect Lerner and Loewe’s melodious but flawed 1960 tuner “Camelot” and let it work its way back east for a Broadway revival. Built around Michael York’s gently regal if vocally unsteady King Arthur, abetted by Rachel York’s luminous Guenevere and James Barbour’s transcendent Lancelot, this production exudes an engaging warmth and infectious humor. The lackluster book, however, remains overly reliant on clunky exposition to move the story along.

Helmer Glenn Casale ably guides a small but competent ensemble through these pre-medieval castle doings but does not have enough of an active dramatic throughline or onstage personnel to make viable Arthur’s claim that his kingdom enjoyed “one brief shining moment” of glory.

Despite Frederick Loewe’s memorably sweeping score, the action within Arthur’s kingdom is no more compelling than the silly garden party celebrated by Guenevere’s soaring “Lusty Month of May,” complete with vigorous but inconsequential jousting, petty court intrigue, suspected infidelity and a lot of talk about rule by law and finding peaceful solutions for common problems as well as voicing concern that “might is only used for right.”

Failing as epic drama, this tuner is essentially an emotional menage a trois featuring a beautiful princess, deeply in love with an insecure king who feels unabashedly lucky to have her as his queen, and an ardently moral French knight, who nonetheless is torn between devotion to his liege and an uncontrollable hunger for the king’s romantically reciprocal wife. The threesome of York, York and Barbour give tangible evidence of this bittersweet conundrum (the two Yorks are unrelated, by the way).

Michael York admirably wends his way through Arthur’s shifting motivations. His tentative “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight” demonstrates that he is still in awe of the fact that the simple deed of pulling a sword from a stone has landed him a crown, a beautiful wife and a court of devoted followers. He doesn’t possess enough vocal projection to rise above the orchestral accompaniment in the celebratory “Camelot,” but he is right at home with a heartfelt rendering of “How to Handle a Woman.”

Rachel York’s sensuously vital Guenevere overpowers Arthur and every one else. Possessing a captivating vocal purity and power, she sails though the “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” exudes a tantalizing sexuality (“The Lusty Month of May”), a robust sense of humor (“Take Me to the Fair”) and a deep romanticism (“Before I Gaze at You Again”).

Barbour is an imposing matinee idol whose Lancelot knows he is the best there ever was (“C’est Moi”), despite his wavering French accent. He just may offer the most memorable rendering of the show-stopper “If Ever I Would Leave You” heard on any stage.

Despite the proclaimed revision of the book, this latest “Camelot” still gives short shrift to three of the most interesting characters in the show. Eric Anderson’s splendidly earthy but wizened Merlyn comes and goes way too early; Shannon Stoeke’s outrageously malevolent Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, doesn’t arrive early enough. Time Winter’s delightfully addled Pellinore supplies such-needed comic relief.

The impressive production designs of John Iacovelli (sets), Marcy Froelich (costumes) and Tom Ruzia (lighting) adequately evoke the mystical period. Though limited in its use, Dan Mojica’s choreography underscores the machinations of a lusty people who are still making up the rules of royal behavior.

Camelot

La Mirada Theater, La Mirada; 1,241 seats; $45 top

  • Production: A McCoy Rigby Entertainment, Liza Lerner, Nederlander Presentations, La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts, Live Nation, Pittsburgh CLO/Van Kaplan, and Waxman Williams Entertainment in association with Dallas Summer Musicals/Michael A. Jenkins and the Pelican Group presentation of a musical in two acts, music by Frederick Loewe, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Directed by Glenn Casale. Music direction and supervision, Craig Barna. Choreography, Dan Mojica.
  • Crew: Sets, John Iacovelli; costumes, Marcy Froelich; lighting, Tom Ruzika; sound, Julie Ferrin; fight direction, Sean Boyd; stage manager, Robert Levinstein. Opened, Jan. 13, 2007. Reviewed, Jan. 14; closes Jan. 28. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.
  • Cast: King Arthur - Michael York Guenevere - Rachel York Lancelot - James Barbour Merlyn - Eric Anderson Mordred - Shannon Stoeke Pellinore - Time Winters Young Arthur/Tom - Tavis Danz Sir Dinaden - Daniel Guzman Sir Lionel - Stuart Ambrose Sir Sigamore - Robert J. Townsend Lady Anne - Sandi DeGeorge Lady Cybil - Suzanne Carlton Clarius - Vincent Zamora Colgrevance - John B. Williford Nimue - Shannon Warne <b>With:</b> Megan Bayha, Venny Carranza, Sandy Hawker, Joanna Louise, Monica Louwerens, Grant Rosen, Leah Seminario, Alan M-L Wager.