Saturday, January 21, 2017

reviews - CAMELOT - Arizona Broadway Theatre

Stephanie Easterday and Matthew C. Thompson
photo by Scott Samplin
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 14th.

"...Arizona Broadway Theatre begins the year in Peoria with a new, colorfully staged production of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, and what a handsome looking production it proves to be....from the moment the curtain rises, Kara Thomson’s hugely effective scenic design, beautifully lit by Jesse Portillo, catches the eye from beginning to the end....Robin L. McGee’s excellent period costumes add to the overall effect of a fictional, historical past.... the magical legend of how (Arthur) became King of England plus the story of Camelot both come from the same, sprawling T.H. White novel, The Once and Future King. Throughout the musical, the now adult Arthur (Matthew C. Thompson) continually refers to events... including a well-told and impassioned account of how he took the sword from the stone as he relates the event to Guenevere (Stephanie Easterday)...(the) boyish charm of a young man from humble, countryside beginnings who finds himself suddenly a king at such an early age is nicely captured by Thompson’s appearance and enthusiastic manner;...Like the production itself, Easterday is a handsome looking Guenevere... with a singing voice to match, ...
Completing the love triangle of leads is Jamie Parnell as the dutiful French knight, Lancelot. His powerful renditions of C’est Moi and If Ever I Would Leave You are quite superb. ...his Lancelot is both strong and honorable. He manages to underline the fact that though he falls for another man’s wife, what happens between Lancelot, Arthur, and Guenevere are no one’s fault...Support is good throughout, particularly from Michael Weaver who doubles as a befuddled Merlin...and fun as the eccentric Pellinore... Renee Kathleen Koher, who also doubles, is in fine voice, here as Nimue and Morgan Le Fey...What’s obvious in Alan Jay Lerner’s script is that the...first half, full of great songs and set pieces, is surprisingly long, and the second half, though shorter, never fully satisfies. Neither does the closing moment that is intended to be inspirational but has never theatrically worked. The villainous character of Mordred takes center stage, and while Stephen Hohendorf makes the jealous, illegitimate child of Arthur effectively evil, by portraying the character as such a slimy, fey, brat, he oversteps into camp in a way the character was never meant to be. But the strength of Camelot is and always will be the score. ...Director James Rio juggles all the elements, marries them together, and delivers a hugely entertaining piece of musical theatre. The problems with Lerner’s book will always be there, but, with the exception of a few above-mentioned reservations, there is little wrong with ABT’s production." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

".The classic fantasy musical Camelot is chock full of fantastic musical numbers and rich and intriguing characters. Arizona Broadway Theatre's production is a little slow paced, but three especially appealing leads who deliver the beloved songs splendidly make it an utterly charming and beautiful production.... tells the story of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, the formation of the Knights of the Round Table, and the magical kingdom of Camelot. Lerner's book and lyrics and Loewe's score provide a realistic view of these royal characters and some of the most beloved romantic ballads in musical theatre. When we first meet Arthur he is a nervous young man scared of meeting his arranged bride Guenevere, who is equally as scared and cautious. Yet after they accidentally meet they realize they actually fit perfectly together. The arrival of the somewhat pompous and self-assured Lancelot du Lac arrives sets in motion a rivalry among the three that ultimately leads to a somewhat sad, yet hopeful, ending. ABT's leads are exceptional. As Arthur and Guenevere, Matthew C. Thompson and Stephanie Easterday immediately draw the audience in with their natural and assured takes on these characters. Thompson's introspective portrayal does well to show us Arthur's thought process and understanding of the obstacles he faces. Easterday is equally adept at portraying a woman who is just as smart and full of life and love as her husband. ...As Lancelot, Jamie Parnell instinctively and immediately gets across the conflicted feelings he has for Guenevere based on the strong bond we see that he has with Arthur. All three of their voices are exceptional, with rich, clear and pure vocals...As Merlin and King Pellinore, the two older men whom Arthur looks up to, Michael Weaver provides plenty of heart and humor. Renee Kathleen Koher's beautiful voice gives a lilting air to Nimue and an appropriate feistiness to Morgan Le Fey. Only Stephen Hohendorf as Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son who is the brief antagonist of the show, is a bit out of place with his smirking and flamboyant take on this whining man compared to the the more down to earth realism the other characters provide. Director James Rio provides the right balance of intimacy and regality to the piece, though he could pick up the pacing just a notch...John D. Smith's musical direction is equally adept with the ensemble, providing a lush, beautiful sound—their performance of "Guenevere" is stunning. Kara Thomson's simple yet elegant set design, Robin L. McGee's detailed costumes... and the beautiful lighting work by Jesse Portillo provide rich, multi-dimensional scenic images. ...Camelot is a musical that captured the hearts of theatregoers in 1960 and, though it is slow in parts, ABT's joyous, joyful and inspiring production, with appealing, exceptional leads and rich creative elements, is just as captivating today. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...CAMELOT is a poignant reminder of the human vulnerability that intercedes and disrupts the champions of possibility ~ and Arthur is its metaphor. In Arizona Broadway Theatre's current production of the musical, Matthew C. Thompson is the chalice into which Arthur's dreams, frustrations, and torments are poured. In turn, Thompson draws from his wide cup of talent and delivers a stirring and highly relatable performance. Thompson is remarkable as he manages Arthur's transformation from the mindless young royal hiding in a tree, nervously awaiting his betrothed and encouraged by his mentor Merlin to learn to think, to the husband betrayed by wife and friend and conflicted about his own ethics when fidelity and honor collide. Michael Weaver doubles up, first as Merlin, Arthur's sage advisor, and then as Pellinore, the good natured king ...Weaver is a joy and gust of fresh air in both roles, infusing each with wit and charm....While Stephanie Easterday as Guenevere and Jamie Parnell as Lancelot raise the roof and touch the heart with their powerhouse vocals, their mutual attraction seems too sudden and mechanical to be credible....Under James Rio's inspired direction, this version of CAMELOT is an absorbing experience and an irresistible invitation to a momentary retreat to a world of romance and possibility.." --Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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