Lerner and Lowe’s beautiful and heartbreaking Camelot opened in 1960, but its musical messages of love, honor and loyalty are as relevant today as they were then.
Attempting to bring Camelot up to date with a tongue in cheek, gender-bending interpretation might be gutsy, but also it is asking for trouble with a capital T.
Music Theater Works tried but a successful offbeat production of such a classic showpiece is an incredible undertaking.
Blaming the miss on the director might simplify the problem but it does seem to start there. Performers are giving full enthusiasm to their parts but their efforts bring a bizarre effect to a beloved musical.
The choreography is odd, with performers flitting around on their toes and swinging flower leis around their necks. Very much missing is the stature and pomp of the Knights of the Round Table.
Costumes work with the mood of the performance but the casual nature of the outfits is inappropriate for the royal and noble characters. The beautiful and gentle Quenevere, whom Lancelot falls in love with at first sight, is wearing fatigue boots.
The first half is particularly strange.
The second half changes direction with a serious approach more akin to the original Camelot. The shift makes the performance more relatable but is also out of touch with the first half.
The Music Theater Works production of Camelot has its moments. How could it not with so many iconic songs: If Ever I Would Leave You, I Loved You Once in Silence, How to Handle a Woman, Take Me to the Fair, I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight and of course, Camelot.
Christine Mayland Perkins (Guinevere) has a lovely voice. Her singing is a highlight of the show.
In this production, Michael Metcalf (Arthur) makes an earnest attempt to be a serious King committed to creating a just society. But there is too much silliness going on around him.
Besides introducing songs that are recognizable more than 60 years later, the original Camelot was a heart breaker and a tearjerker. The cast was unforgettable: Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet. What a hard legacy to follow. But trying to invent a new, off-beat version is too difficult a task.
In this production of Camelot, audiences should not expect an evening of nostalgia with a musical they love and songs that are beloved classics.
The Music Theater Works production of Camelot at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts will run through Nov. 13. For tickets call, 847-673-6300, or visit MusicTheaterWorks.com.