It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear! That the performances must be perfect at this time of year! While it isn’t the lusty month of May, though worry not that’s coming quite quickly down the pipe, we know a place where you can say, that the performances are rollicking, rolling, and ripe! Why, it’s Camelot! Camelot! Yes, Camelot, so I’ve said. At the Woodbrook Players now, for three weekends only, the only excuse you’re allowed to have for missing it, is being dead! It’s Camelot! Why, Camelot, the Learner and Loewe war-horse musical, directed by Ron Oaks with Musical Direction by Todd Gustafson. Enchanting, well-sung, and nostalgically performed, join the Woodbrook players as they venture back into Arthurian legend and legacy, exploring love, life, and the round table on the way.
Director Ron Oaks sets a lovely stage; the woods of Camelot are inviting, the background scenic design charming and quaint. There is a sketched-illustrated quality to the scenery, which assists the audience in imaginative engagement, allowing them to feel transported to a legendary storybook. Oaks keeps things simplistic; he uses a basic castle for the interior and exterior and lets the true talents of the cast radiate on their own accord. This is of course enhanced by Costume Designer Sherry Peck, who outfits the company in appropriate Arthurian garb, making particularly regal garments for the future Queen Guenevere. Peck’s costuming is on point for the other characters as well, especially the knights who look proud and regal.
Kneel, oh Todd Gustafson of the lone-piano, to be knighted for dutiful and expertise services rendered to the musical that is called Camelot. And arise Sir Musical Director, Knight of all Vamping. Gustafson not only knows his way around the score (and through it, over it, and under it) but knows exactly how to vamp with transition music through various scene changes while various set elements are being shifted about behind the curtain so that the audience isn’t dulled into darkened silence. Gustafson plays the entire score single-handled on an old-fashioned church piano, nary missing a note or cue. Responsible for the sublime blends during large ensemble numbers like “Guenevere” and the solid harmonies crafted during duets like “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”, Gustafson has well-earned his title of Knight over the realm of music in this show.
With a solid ensemble, and several vocal soloists who make the humdrum production reinvigorated with life, there is much to enjoy about the show. While Lerner and Loewe’s show may be enough to put even the most devoted of Camelot fans into a slumbering coma, Director Ron Oaks makes smart decisions about pacing, and keeps the show moving along to keep the audience invested. There is a lovely, lusty trio of Jocelyn Taylor and HanaLyn Colvin, led by Ariel Edler (playing Guenevere) for “The Month of May.” With these siren-esque voices and sweetly sweeping choreography (crafted by Jenn Blizzard-Sisk), the number is a perfect welcome for springtime and all that accompanies it in the production.
Even the most delightful of springs can be spoiled by a festering, rotting canker like Mordred (Stephen Gaede.) Petulant, odious, and perfectly ready to rupture his vile puss all over Arthur and the whole of Camelot, Gaede plays a perfectly obnoxious little twit that makes everyone cringe. In a polar opposite vein of the revolting little whelp, King Pellinore (the infamous David Guy) toddles onto the scene and is received with warm and welcomed hilarity. Guy, who is Baltimore’s premiere senior character man, fills out the role of Pellinore grandly. What? What? Perfectly practiced at quirky comedic timing, Guy is the man to slay the beast that is Pellinore.
Ron Oaks himself steps into the role of Merlyn, brief though it is, and makes a cameo appearance in the early segments of the show. His directorial choice to do this, along with other clever staging gimmicks like allowing the hypnotically enchanting voice of Jocelyn Taylor as Nimue to remain unseen during “Follow Me”; this unique choice allows the sound of the siren’s call to appear to literally only impact Merlyn. Oaks also recognizes the tremendous need for intense sword-play choreography and recognizing further still the needs and limitations of stage space and actors capabilities, he chooses a remarkable freeze-frame approach to Sir Lionel (Scott Gielda), Sir Dinadin (Doug Storey), and Sir Sagramore (Al Silberman) charging at Lancelot. There is a great amount of respect to be paid to a director who knows how to best engage the imagination of his audience without presenting something less than stellar, like sword-fight choreography, in an otherwise sound production.
With a voice that sparkles with a luster that puts gold to shame, Jim Rafferty embodies Lancelot divinely. There is a coy cocksure command in the way he boasts through “C’est Moi” which combines both humor and stringent pride, all accompanied by his golden buttery voice that smoothly peels through the lyrics. With an uneasy tension balanced to perfection between himself and Lady Guenevere, played by the astonishingly talented Ariel Edler, Rafferty brings a great thriving love-triangle onto the stage in this musical. As for Edler, with perfect pitch, and beautiful emotional swells in all of her solos, she gives a joyous rebirth to the character of Guenevere, making the audience fall in love with her from her opening solo “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood.”
Proposition. A man who has played a role at least thrice before should be able to carry it off successfully once more. Chuck Dick is such a man who makes this proposition come true when playing Arthur, King of Camelot. Surprisingly spry and embodying that desperate boyish need require of Arthur when we first encounter him, Dick delivers an honest performance, well balanced with strong patters and deep booming vocals. A rare talent, with an honesty that makes Arthur simple and yet invested, Dick radiates in the role and does the good king a great justice.
So mount your horse, ready your steed, and ride you off to see Camelot at The Woodbrook Players for these next three weekends!
Running Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes with one intermission
Camelot plays through May 13, 2018 at The Woodbrook Players in the Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church— 6200 N. Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available for purchase at the door, cash, check, or credit card or by clicking here!