Actors Preserve Chivalry of 'Camelot'

Ask Robert Goulet if Richard Burton inspired the way he plays King Arthur in "Camelot"--at the Orange County Performing Arts Center through Jan. 3--and his blue eyes, well, blaze .

It was a decent question. After all, it was Goulet who played Lancelot to Burton's King Arthur in the Broadway production of "Camelot" in the early '60s.

"Everyone keeps asking me the same question," Goulet huffed on Monday night at the cast party following his opening night performance in Segerstrom Hall. "I never saw Burton do the role. I was either working with him on stage as an actor or I was busy off stage. I never stopped and said: 'So, that's what he's doing!' "

Of course not. "It never occurred to me that I would play the part of King Arthur," said Goulet, who attended the party

at Scott's Seafood Grill and Bar with his wife (and business manager), Vera.

But ask Steve Blanchard--who plays the youthful and strapping Lancelot--if Goulet has inspired his performance and you get: "He has been very supportive; he is a very gracious man."

I told Goulet that it pained me not to see him sing the wistful "If Ever I Would Leave You"--the song that became his trademark after he (as Lancelot) sang it to Julie Andrews (Queen Guenevere) in the Broadway production.

"The song is all Steve Blanchard's now," said Goulet, who will be on the road for a year with the production. "But when I leave this show and do some concert work, it's going to go back to being my song again," he added, laughing.

Among guests at the party--attended by members of the center's Performing Arts Fraternity--was Mitchell Samuelson, chairman of the fraternity's social committee. Samuelson was one of the handful of party guests who saw the Lerner and Loewe musical on Broadway.

"I loved it then, and I loved it tonight," said Samuelson, an attorney. "I'm a romantic, and, to watch those wonderful times in Merry Olde England when men were knights and women were virgins, er, when women were women and men were chivalrous, well, it renews a youthful spirit."

Did it disturb him to see Goulet in the mature role? "Hey. I'm no Lancelot anymore either," he said.

For actress Patricia Kies, playing Guenevere was a "challenge," she said.

"The trick is to make her sympathetic because she's married to Arthur and she falls in love with Lancelot. But she never really stops loving Arthur."

Ah, well. What do the simple folk do?

Robert Koehler reviews the production in Costa Mesa. F3

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