Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Henry Avery, also a venerable Albuquerque theatrical institution, directs this production of the well-known musical Camelot and has assembled a talented cast of eleven actor/singers. They are supported by a live musical ensemble of six players under the musical direction of William W. William.
The actors playing the three leading parts–Madison Dodd as Guenevere, Cameron Illidge-Welch as Arthur, and Stuart Neef as Lancelot–are all excellent singers and do justice to the familiar Lerner and Loewe songs. Miss Dodd has a particularly nice effortless soprano. Stuart Neef as Lancelot integrates his singing with his acting well and captures the geeky quality of the French knight. Cameron Illidge-Welch's singing voice is also outstanding, but this does not carry over into his speaking voice. It lacks the gravitas needed for his important speeches, almost monologues, that carry the message of the play. The role was originated by famed Shakespearean actor Richard Burton and falls into the pantheon of Lerner and Loewe opportunities for speaker-singers, including Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Yes, that's a lot to live up to.
Zane Ivey, making his ALT debut as Mordred, comports himself well, and does double duty as Squire Dapp in the first act. Nicholas Handley as Sir Sagramore, Brian Wise as Sir Dinadan, and Daniel Garcia as Sir Lionel are all excellent as the Knights of the Round Table. Jude Chavez as the young Tom of Warwick is very effective. Adam Tedesco, Vicky Vail, and Emily Peacock add to the ensemble, especially in their singing.
The unit set of several levels and openings against a cyclorama was designed by Mr. Avery and Jason Roman. It works well for all the ensemble scenes, but the more intimate scenes need more focus. This could have been accomplished with lights, but the lights seemed to be a bit off on opening night.
Kimberly Love stepped up from wardrobe mistress to design the costumes for Camelot. Most of the costumes are quite successful. The three knights are coordinated beautifully. Arthur's robes seem disheveled, and, where this might work for him at the beginning of the play as Wort, he needs more regal support at the end. Guenevere has one dress throughout the production and it is bright red. Costume colors tell a story and the red dress while she sings about the simple joys of maidenhood is jarring. Guenevere, an iconic figure, deserves at least two beautiful gowns.
The orchestra and the orchestrations are the most problematic aspects of this show. The orchestra is offstage and below and they are on mics. The reimagined musical score by Steve Orich is for keyboard, percussion, two reeds, violin, and bass. It is reedy and tinny and seems to be fighting the singers. At the performance I attended, there were several loud sounds from the orchestra that surely were errors. Generally, the sound system has difficulties.
With support from an experienced technical and design staff, Camelot has been given the resources for a truly outstanding production. Unfortunately, it lacks the passion history's first royal threesome requires. Additionally, the ensemble band of traveling players concept Mr. Avery overlays on the production never really comes together. The concept bookends the production, but is never fully realized and perhaps is unnecessary.
Camelot is about many things. As Arthur says, the tragedy is that personal passions destroyed the lofty goals of Camelot. In this production the personal passions are muted. The love between and among the three protagonists is not very obvious. There must be real connection between Arthur and Guenevere, between Guenevere and Lancelot, and even between Arthur and Lancelot. The audience must feel the loss of this love in order to experience the tragedy and the hope of the ending.
This evening in the theatre is enjoyable. Magic and hope are at the heart of Camelot. Striving for the ideal is a worthy idea. This message comes through. Don't let it be forgot!
Camelot runs through November 19, 2023, at the Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 Pasquale SW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m., Saturday November 11 at 2:00 p.m., and Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. General Admission, 17 and up $25 Youth, under 17 $20, Season Subscribers $20. For tickets and information visit albuquerquelittletheatre.org or call 505-242-4750.
Director: Henry Avery