Because “Camelot” had been the favorite show of President John Kennedy, the term was quickly applied to the Kennedy era after his tragic assassination—that “one brief shining moment”—as the real Camelot itself was said to have been a millennia and a half earlier. The original king, Richard Burton, told me in 1980 when he was reprising the role here that as one who used to drink with JFK when he was a young senator, that even he was yearning—just like the rest of us—for the “good ol’ days.” That road show allowed Alan Jay Lerner to make revisions that kept all of the comedy, but following Lerner’s screenplay for the 1967 film version, the melodrama of the story was maximized by removing some of the more abstract, magical scenes and songs, and by framing the entire story as a nocturnal flashback that Arthur has while waiting to go to battle with Lancelot. The tinkering has continued on, this time supplied by the late Lerner’s offspring who have so reshuffled, cut and changed key lines that even if you know the play, you may end up wondering what the king is doing tonight. Some cuts work quite nicely, such as losing “The Jousts,” an ensemble number that described an offstage tournament which here is shown onstage with swashbuckling swordsmanship. But eliminating the key climactic ballad “I Loved You Once in Silence” and replacing it with the iconic “If Ever I Would Leave You,” which opened Act II in the original version, means that the number that introduces the tragic love affair ends up concluding it, which means that poor Lancelot and Guenevere have barely just admitted that they love each other in this telling, and moments later are caught together without even a full expression, let alone a consummation, of their love. But this production is so dead on in every other respect that lovers of the show will not want to miss it. Michael York makes a splendid king, riding the perfect balance between the comedy that Burton brought to the role along with the heartbreak and pathos that marked Richard Harris’ many performances. Rachel York makes a stunning and vulnerable Guenevere and James Barbour’s comedic and over-confident Lancelot nearly steals the show. (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.