'Camelot' a musical marvel at 50

For 50 years, the legend of King Arthur has been dazzling stage audiences, with no signs of slowing down. Now the Glendale Centre Theatre has taken a turn with "Camelot" and has done quite an impressive job in its rendition.

Those who are old enough to remember often associate Camelot with the Kennedy administration, as it later became known that the president would listen to the soundtrack before settling into bed. Thus it seems fitting that in 2010, with a president who draws a considerable amount of comparisons to Kennedy in office, that "Camelot" would again be popular.

Of course, the story of "Camelot" has been beaten into our cultural consciousness via books, movies, radio and TV. I'm sure there's even a video game or two based on King Arthur and his knights of the round table. Yet it's "Camelot" the musical, complete with songs that are still catchy a half-century later and a story that is timeless enough to be enjoyed by all ages, that people continue to fall in love with.

At its core, is a story about the torments of Guenevere (Victoria Strong) and Lancelot's (Kelby Thwaits) forbidden love affair. "I love you," Lancelot tells her, "God forgive me but I do." "God forgive us both," Guenevere replies. "Will they, or won't they?" is the question most will ask, having already known the answer. At the center of it all is Arthur (George Champion), Guenevere's loyal husband and Lancelot's greatest supporter. Arthur suspects that something has gone afoul in his and Guenevere's relationship but at first turns a blind eye. Once Guenevere's infidelity is confirmed, however, Arthur wages war against Lancelot and his adulterous wife.

Watching a period play at the Glendale Centre Theatre is always a treat because you can be sure that the staff will be attired in authentic clothes from that era. Given the Old English theme, I was ushered to my seat by a gentleman wearing a puffy white shirt and shabby knee-high brown slacks. He looked like a throwback from the days of Robin Hood when men with pointed shoes and straw hats played classical guitar for dancing villagers.

Costume designer Andrea Wood, a favorite of the GCT, has once again outdone herself by replicating everything from the lavish gowns worn by Guenevere, to Merlin's colorful cape. Wood has an uncanny ability to capture the vibrancy of an era not particularly known for its flamboyance. It's one thing to see King Arthur in a traditional cloak, but to see him lavished in flashy purples, reds and yellows is an experience all in itself.

Musical Director Steven Applegate stays faithful to the original score and it was an absolute pleasure to hear Thwaits' big voice on numbers like "C'est Moi" and "If Ever I Would Leave You." The same could be said of Strong and Champion, both strong singers in their own right, but far more enjoyable when they teamed up for the sadly sentimental "What Do Simple Folk Do?"

It may have been 50 years since "Camelot" debuted on Broadway but the Glendale Centre Theatre has been entertaining people for 63 years and running. And that alone should be reason enough to take the whole family.

James Famera is a freelance arts critic based in Los Angeles.

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INFOBOX

What:"Camelot" book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday until Oct. 16

Where: Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale

Tickets: $21 to $23, with group discounts available.

Contact: Visit http://www.glendalecentretheatre.com or call (818) 244-8481

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