Seventh in a series of Broadway reports

NEW YORK — “Camelot,” the beloved stage musical encompassing a romantic triangle amid the fabled King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable legacy, is a problematic specimen at the Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont.

Directed by Bartlett Sher, the show was nominated for five Tony Awards and won nothing, and consequently, attendance has been disappointing, triggering an early Sept. 3 closing.  A possible national tour and an eventual West End residency down the line, dates uncertain.

The production has the usual Lincoln Center flair, with arched columns, monochromatic and stylishly minimalist sets by Michael Yeargan and splashy medieval costumes to provide colors that enchant, notably in the dance moments choreographed by Byron Easly. Projections of shadowy trees and church deco enhance the lack of set pieces, and the themes of chivalry and romance, complete with sleek English dances and rigorous fight choreography, help fill the eyes, the ears and the soul.

But “Camelot” turns out to be a blur; the delicate love story with songs by Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) remain touch points. Based on the “The Once and Future King,” the novel by T.H. White, the show has undergone surgery by Aaron Sorkin, noted writer from TV’s “The Office,” who wrote the book , but has changed the tone and flavor of the original, modernized for a contemporary audience with major adjustments in the storytelling – like erasing some classic characters. Like a renovated old home, there designs and details you’ll like, and some who won’t.

Andrew Burnap, left, is King Arthur, and Phillipa Soo is Guenevere in “Camelot.”

Don’t let it be forgot; the shining moments are elusive.

The cast is superb and occasionally likeable and luminous, with a boyish and dubious King Arthur (youthful and handsome Andrew Burnap, a Tony winner in “The Inheritance”), a Korean Guenevere (expressive and eloquent but reluctant bride Philippa Soo, the original Eliza Schuyler in “Hamilton”), and a black Lancelot du Lac (Jordan Donica, who was Freddy Eynsford Hill in “My Fair Lady,” and powerful and dominating here). They are the principals in the love triangle, and emit some sparks.

But clearly, diversity is at play, and thus some rules bent.

Alterations abound in characters, too: Merlyn (Dakin Matthews) used to be a wizard, but now he’s a sage, and Morgan Le Fay (Marilee Talkington) is a chemist, and single mom to Mordred (Taylor Trensch) who’s lost his magic.

Happily, some of the memorable tunes in the score are retained and staged with sumptuous support of a 30-member orchestra, directed by Kimberly Grigsby, always a joyous  tradition. The title song “Camelot” and “What Do the Simple Folk Do,” performed by Arthur and Guenevere, and “C’est Moi” and “If Ever I Would Leave You” delivered by Lancelot, are worth the admission.

Sher’s trademarks at Lincoln Center include such previous hits as “South Pacific,” “My Fair Lady,” “The King and I” and “The Light at the Piazza.” This time, the show is a misfortune,  receiving mixed reviews and unimpressive box office response.

Jordan Donica, as Lancelot in “Camelot,” is the dominating angle in the love triangle.

Donica’s towering stance and booming voice make him the production’s brightest star, yet a lone angle in a triangle does not equate to a hit show.

You might recall, if you’re of a certain vintage, that the hope and magic of “Camelot” once was linked to the JFK presidency. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, widow Jackie admitted that “Camelot” was her beloved husband’s choice musical, a net that created a sidebar for the Kennedys. Lyrics in the title song, which capitalized the Arthurian period, impacted American democracy as the King’s mission for prevailing peace in the fable was evasive.

The alluring sentiments included this verse, sung at the conclusion of the musical:

“Don’t let it be forgot
“that once there was a spot
“for one brief shining moment 
“that was known as … Camelot.” …

That moment is sorely missed

And that’s Show Biz. …


“Camelot” is a musical by Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music), based on the original book by Alan Jay Lerner inspired by T.H. White’s novel, “The Once and Future King,” and adapted and updated by Aaron Sorkin; directed by Bartlett Sher

Playing at the Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont, through. Sept. 3

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