REVIEW: Camelot at Theatre Lawrence

I have to admit I had very high expectations for this show.

First…it is one of my favorite musicals of all time.

Second…I know the score from the original and was familiar with the story since it was my utter obsession in 8th grade.

Third…I interviewed the cast during rehearsals and was impressed with their enthusiasm.

So here we go.

In a season that saw both triumphs and a few mis-steps, Camelot is the show that brought home the bacon this year.

I may boldly say that this production was among the finest I have seen since my first day at the theater all the way back in 2011.

You see for me, theater is about acting. You can have marvelous sets and costumes and lighting and music (and we will touch on all of that) but without the acting…there is no theater.

In a role tailor-made for the talents of Christoph David Cording, he did not disappoint. While he self-admittedly is not a singer, he can hold a tune and that is all that was needed. His ACTING carried the performance and the show. He WAS King Arthur and he was also Wort and the emotional transitions that he brought to the performance made you feel every ounce of his fears, self-doubt and agonies. I can not think of anyone from our local talent pool that could carry a role like this that requires such emotional depth. I was in awe.

Oh Alan Martin. How handsome you are and oh can you sing. And we will miss you on our stage. Fare the well event to come the last week of June for sure. The singing and the gallantry was reminiscent of Gaston from Beast and you electrified the stage with your presence.

Welcome Brenna Castor. I hope you do more with TL because you brought a wonderful interpretation to the character of Guenevere.

Welcome back Jim Tuchscherer! You slayed the role of Pellinore. Any time you want to take on King Lear, let me know.

It was a treat to see Steven J Fendt and Bob Newton dance around the stage and also watching Charles E. Whitman perform again reminded me that the curtain never falls on a thespian. Mario Bonilla is omni-present in shows at TL and never disappoints.

Kyle J Tichenor and Tony Console were absolutely delightful in multiple roles with dancing grace and fun supporting expressiveness. Tony…I sure hope we get to hear you sing more often. Anytime you want to join me for karaoke, the mic is yours. You need a role my brother.

Finally, Secily Rees did a magnificent job of capturing the spirit of Morgan Le Fey. I would also like to see her play Glenda the good witch some day. (Hey that rhymes!)

James LaRocca was a little too campy for my taste as Mordred but I suppose such a vile character requires that excess to be believable.

Now, let’s go back stage.

Mary Baker and her orchestra did a magnificent job capturing an often challenging score. The musicians were able to keep up and even more impressive was the fact that they perform in the basement while watching the show via video without being on or near the stage.

Jane Frances Swalwell Pennington continues her costuming win streak. I honestly believe there is no challenge too great for the mighty seamstress. If we ever decided to have a Lawrence RenFest…Jane already has the garb. Well done madame.

James Diemer has raised the bar for every production since his arrival at TL a few years back. From lighting to staging to props, every show continues to exceed its predecessor. It takes a very trained eye to notice the detailed intricacies of the stones and columns but the hard work was evident to me and it enhanced the show without stealing its thunder. Bravo.

Leave it to a radio guy to handle sound properly please. That’s what I have said for 30 years. Bob Newton knows his sound and was masterful at using fading, distance and specific speakers to convey time, distance and emotion in this production. Given the show’s emotional complexity and transcendental overtones, the sound was a critical cast member and it shined.

Last but not least…the director. A good director can make or break a show. This is where we have had a few bumps in the road over the years at TL. But Mary Doveton can literally save and raise any production despite its challenges. There were very few challenges with this cast but the timing, the blocking and the movement was spot on. Camelot was a masterpiece thanks to the attention to detail put into the show. And kudos to you Mrs. Doveton for putting “Fie On Goodness” back into the show. It’s a masterful number and these boys nailed it. The touring production has cut several numbers due to the show’s excessive run time and that one has sadly hit the cutting room floor too often.

So. Camelot! Yes Camelot. A most enchanting place and a wonderful show with a wonderful cast. It runs loooonnnggg folks but go to the bathroom before you take your seat, buy two bottles of water to get through the show and enjoy every last drop of it because it is worth it. Entertaining. Engaging. Moving.

Bravo Theatre Lawrence. One of your best…ever. More like this one please!


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