Arts and Entertainment

Review: ‘Camelot’ still casts a magical spell

Anna Rose Warren is one start of Vashon High School’s production of “Camelot.” - Craig Hanson Photo
Anna Rose Warren is one start of Vashon High School’s production of “Camelot.”
— image credit: Craig Hanson Photo

It’s always fun to attend a musical at Vashon High School, and the school’s current production of “Camelot” is no exception — the show’s cast is filled with talented teens, tearing up the stage and singing up a storm as they bring the pageantry of King Arthur and his court to life.

It’s a show that requires the kids to stretch their theatrical muscles and twist them into the shape of a time gone by.

Many of the cast members are veterans of VHS’ 2009 production of “Fame,” and last year’s stellar “A Chorus Line.” But those two more contemporary musicals seem sophisticated descendents of “Camelot” — a Lerner and Lowe chestnut that opened on Broadway in 1960 starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet, and later became a big-budget Hollywood movie with Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero.

The musical tells the stirring story of an idealistic medieval king who toils to usher in a more enlightened era, only to see his dreams shattered when his beloved queen and favorite knight fall hopelessly in love.

It’s impossible for me to write this review without mentioning that I saw the film when I was 9 or 10 years old, and became completely fixated on it.

In my tender years, I listened to the cast album thousands of times, the result being that every note in the score of “Camelot” is deeply, forever carved into my brain.

We don’t choose our obsessions, they choose us, but if I had to guess why “Camelot” came calling on me, it was because I had never seen two more beautiful people in my life than Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero. Instant enchantment.

Why my parents would subsequently allow me to hole up for months next to the speakers of our giant console stereo, wearing out the grooves of a record filled with songs about treachery, treason and adultery is another intriguing question — one I think I found the answer to while watching VHS’ production.

I discovered that there were lots of  things I had forgotten about “Camelot” — things that actually do make it a very family-friendly show.

There is a fantastically comic character, King Pellinore, played with perfect timing by Alec Spencer, who doesn’t sing a single note, but contributes in a crucial way to the story and brings lots of belly laughs to the proceedings.

Another character who doesn’t sing is the wizard Merlin, played with aplomb by Ryan Devlin. And how could I have forgotten the character of Morgan Le Fey, a forest fairy whose love of candy helps bring down Arthur’s empire? Allie Hansen’s turn as the gluttonous and feckless Le Fey is a delight.

Two of the leading actors in the show are well-known to Vashon theater audiences.

Anna Rose Warren lights up the stage as the lovely Queen Guenevere, and Sage Everett brings a royal bearing to his portrayal of Arthur.

But the real discovery of the show is Marshall Montgomery, who plays the role of Lancelot. This is Montgomery’s stage debut, but you’d never know that from the way he so completely inhabits his character and gives his all to the audience. Bravo!

My only quibble is that “Camelot” doesn’t have enough juicy roles for all the talented kids at the high school.

Isaac George, who has a high, clear tenor voice and lots of dancing skills, has only one tiny solo — a disappointment to his fans like me.

But it was the girls who really got short shrift in the show.

Zoey Rice has an all-too-brief appearance in the show as the enchantress Nimue, filling the theater with a superb rendition of the song, “Follow Me.”

And I counted 26 other young ladies in the chorus — many of whom I’ve seen in leading roles in shows and dance productions around town. It’s a pity that here they were pretty much confined to parading on and off the stage in period costumes.

But then again, selfishly, I’m glad “Camelot” was chosen as this year’s musical. After all these years, there is still a part of me that is a bit obsessed with the timeless legend of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guenevere. See “Camelot,” and I bet you’ll understand why.

— Elizabeth Shepherd is arts editor of The Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber.

“Camelot” runs through March 27, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Ticket prices vary from $10 to $12, except for Saturday, March 19, when tickets are $15 for a benefit for Rotary service projects.

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