Camelot: Cast keeps magic in tact, despite shortened script and score

BY TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

May 29, 2007 - Michael York caused quite a stir when he came to Dallas in 1975 to film a futuristic film at the Apparel Mart. With York was a young actress from Corpus Christi named Farrah Fawcett. The film was “Logan’s Run.”

Now, some 37 years later, York has returned to the metroplex, this time starring as King Arthur in Lerner and Lowe’s “Camelot” at the Dallas Summer Musicals.

�Camelot� is the retelling of Britain�s mythical kingdom, the Knights of the Round Table and the love that destroyed it all.The new version of the beloved 1960 Broadway smash has been trimmed to just over 2 hours and the stirring overture is no more, but much of the plays� original magic remains, thanks to the three principal actors.

York assumes the role of Arthur from Richard Burton, who originated it on the stage and from Richard Harris, who played the king on film in 1967. 

If you are familiar with the two earlier productions, it’s difficult not to compare York against Burton and Harris, but he is to be commended for putting his own stamp on the legendary role and making it his own. 

While Burton and Harris chose to speak most of the difficult score, York sings the numbers, which limits the ability to project as much emotion. However, his presence is strong and he seems comfortable in the royal robes.

York also brings a wide range of emotions to the stage, moving from a confused young husband to a wise, if broken-hearted ruler who faces his final battle with dignity and grace.

As Guenevere, Arthur’s one true love, Rachel York (no relation) will make you forget that Dame Julie Andrews created the role or that Vanessa Redgrave played her so luminously on film. 

Rachel York

Playing opposite Andrews in  “Victor/Victoria” and “Putting It Together” gave York a lot of time to listen to Andrews’ crystal clear diction.

I closed my eyes during several of her numbers and thought I was listening to the original soundtrack. I would happily pay to hear York read the phone book, so perfect are her pitch and intonation. 

York is a triple threat: she has impeccable diction; she can act; and she is drop-dead gorgeous. She perfectly captures both the innocence of maidenhood and womanly wisdom. 

James Barbour plays Lancelot Du Lac, the righteous, rigid French knight who comes to Camelot to join Arthur’s Round Table. It’s not an easy role to pull off, having to walk a fine line between bold braggart and humble servant. 

Barbour may not be as polished as Robert Goulet (Broadway) or Franco Nero (film), but his vocals are certainly on par with his predecessors. 

Barbour’s turn on “If Ever I Would Leave You,” one of the dreamiest love songs ever, stopped the show. Not one female near me even blinked during the number. I think we all forgot to breathe, too.

�C�set Moi,� Lancelot�s anthem to all things knightly could easily dissolve into buffoonery, but Barbour adds just enough humility to keep the song�s bravado believable.�

The quick scenery changes were seamless and kept the production moving along. The orchestra was superb and never overpowered the actors. The lighting was effective, not heavy-handed and this time, the sound in the hall was clear and distinct. 

Even though there is a company of supporting actors, this is really a three-person show. The magic begins and ends with Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot and a kingdom called “Camelot.”

Star-crossed lovers have never looked nor sounded so beautiful. Brava!

�Camelot� runs through June 3 at Fair Park Music Hall. Tickets range from $11 to $69. Call 214-631-2787 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.�

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