Thursday 18 October 2018

Camelot - Review

London Palladium, London


Book & Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe

Freddie Tapner conducting the LMTO

Camelot in Concert, a one night only delight at the London Palladium, celebrated lyricist Alan Jay Lerner’s would-be 100th birthday with a musical not seen on the West End for some thirty years but, as noted with the large turn-out and standing ovation, one which has certainly not been forgotten. To be expected for the winner of four Tony Awards!

The simple set up for the wonderful London Musical Theatre Orchestra and podiums for the cast of ten allowed the music, story and classic but often naughty lyrics to really shine in the Palladium. As with Lerner’s classics Brigadoon and Gigi, the script for Camelot paints a picture without the need for elaborate set and costume, a testament to the rarely heard show and making it perfect for a concert arrangement.

Olivier Award winner David Thaxton is brilliant as the unexpected King Arthur, a jack the lad with a heart of gold and wholesome ambition for Camelot thanks to Merlin’s fortune-telling advice and shape-shifting lessons. As Arthur grows into the king who envisions and implements the legendary Knights of the Roundtable, Merlin loses his powers thanks to the spellbinding song and spell ‘Follow Me’ from Nimue, enchantingly sung by Dutch singer Celinde Schoenmaker. This early exit - and vital plot point - seemed to be a waste as Clive Carter’s Merlin certainly brought the humour home (“and Wort… remember to think!”) but thankfully Carter continued to milk the quirks of his characters as King Pellinore, the ever gleeful and unwittingly wise member of the roundtable. Savannah Stevenson brings Arthur’s Queen (Ginny) Guenevere’s naivety, sweetness and sass to life with ‘The Simple Joys of Maidenhood’ and ‘The Lusty Month of May’, driving the drama from hopeful to tragic thanks to her ill-advised affair with Lancelot. The booming Charles Rice is that Sir Lancelot du Lac, who brought laughter with the très cocky ‘C’est Moi’ and, in Act Two, tears with the exquisite ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’. Matthew McKenna (aka Bananaman) is a highlight from the rest of the table as ever so Scottish, kilt-wearing Sir Sagramore and the concert was solidified by the ensemble who appeared downstage for crowd scenes, each offering an enthusiastic and energetic performance.

Bravo to Freddie Tapner and his remarkable LMTO. Events like this one highlight the enduring nature of a stand-out show like Camelot. A rather flat and undefined performance from the antagonist didn’t detract from the joy of the piece and there was very much the hope a full revival is forthcoming.

Reviewed by Heather Deacon

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