Thursday, August 22, 2013

King Arthur Revisited

Last weekend I saw Glimmerglass Opera's production of Lerner & Loewe's Camelot, a musical I'd not had a chance to revisit since viewing its original Broadway production in 1961. It's a wonderful musical with an unusual twisted history. First, it followed their smash hit, My Fair Lady, which was still running when Camelot opened. While the show had a good run, largely because of the huge advance sale stimulated by My Fair Lady's success, reviews were only mildly favorable.

It has since been concluded that this situation was the result of the illness and consequent withdrawal of Moss Hart as director. He'd staged My Fair Lady and was already an acknowledged Broadway genius, added on to his status as a playwright in tandem with George S. Kaufman. When he returned some months after the show opened, he re-staged it to great effect, so that those who saw it then said that had he been able to prepare the show for opening night, it would have been a critical smash.

Glimmerglass put on a fine performance. Strongest was David Pittsinger as Arthur, and this year's artist-in-residence, Nathan Gunn, was Lancelot. Andriana Churchman put on a nice showing which in some ways even conjured up recollection of the now-legendary Julie Andrews as Guenevere. I found that Pittsinger was a strong singer, probably with a better voice than the wonderful Richard Burton, although no one is likely to act better than Burton. Gunn, alas, did not to my hearing come close to matching the roaring performance of Robert Goulet, in his Broadway debut, as Lancelot, especially in the blockbuster ballad, If Ever I Would Leave You--he was better in the lighter C'est Moi

Camelot was drawn from the delightful re-telling of the Arthurian legends by T.H. White, The Once and Future King.  That novel was once described by a critic as "the Middle Ages--not as they were but as they should have been."  Seeing the show prompted me to pull out Volume Two of the classic Bulfinch's Mythology--The Age of Chivalry, to refresh myself on the stories. It was a fine excursion.

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