New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Connecticut Theater

The Westport Country Playhouse

Westport Country Playhouse ends its season brilliantly. Here is a unique “Camelot,” thanks to director Mark Lamos and his company—a mini-“Camelot” that packs a powerful wallop.

The show (music by Frederick Loewe, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner) opens with a small boy seated stage front, playing with his knights and castle. This boy will live on, ordered by King Arthur to tell the Camelot story to the ages. But this scene quickly fades, moving rapidly into the tale, no nonsense about it. The company, costumed and masked, promptly turns this “Camelot” into the fairy tale it is meant to be.

Lamos (Artistic Director of the Playhouse) has marshaled all his forces to prove that, in this case, less is more. There are no over-bloated production numbers, but a versatile cast of nine that fills the stage. Imagination sets the scene, and masterful design, movement, performance, direction creates a memorable “Camelot.”

Where shall we begin? Every aspect of this musical works in harmony. For starters, the stage set is amazingly simple but highly adequate, with a distant silhouetted castle to let us know where we are, changing color to reflect the particular moment.

The pace never falters, and every moment counts, under Lamos’s masterful direction. The cast is flawless, led by Robert Sean Leonard as King Arthur. Leonard is a seasoned pro who never falters, well able to match the tradition of other earlier King Arthurs. He talks his way beautifully through important songs, recalling the Rex Harrison style in “My Fair Lady.” But his other songs are sung adequately and articulated beautifully. In fact, not only Leonard, but every cast member, sings and speaks clearly, offering a rare experience to the audience.

All the featured players—Stephen Mark Lukas as Lancelot, Britney Coleman as Guinevere, and Patrick Andrews as Mordred—create clearly-defined characters, marked by wit and poignancy. Andrews, in particular, adds a new dynamic, when, in the second act, he makes his appearance. High praise also goes to choreographer Connor Gallagher and to set designer Michael Yeargan, costume designer Wade LaBoissonniere, and lighting designer Robert Wierzel.

This is truly a community effort, as theater, at its best, is meant to be—a very special “Camelot.”

--Irene Backalenick
October 13, 2016


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