Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where Once It Never Rained 'Til After Sunset

We went over to UCLA to catch the road production of Camelot. Somewhat to my disappointment, we didn't get the version with Michael York as Arthur. Even if he can't sing, he follows a long tradition of actors in musicals who can't sing: Richard Burton and Richard Harris in that particular role, actually, and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. Instead, we got Lou Diamond Phillips, who can carry a tune most of the time.

I had never seen the play done and I've fallen asleep during my attempts to watch the 1968 screen version which has a design sensibility firmly seated in the flower-power, Peter Max days of the waning decade. It doesn't work for me, any more than the filmed version of Hair does locked into the look of the wrong decade.

I thought the look of the production was very nice, with Arthur and Guenevere frequently color-coordinated. Merlin was wearing long rasta-hair in his brief appearance. Most of the singers were just fine and Rachel de Benedet was terrific as Guenevere. The audience was fairly sparse, which lowered the energy in the room.

Pretty much only the center section of seats was filled, leaving lots of open space at Royce Hall. Len wondered why he hadn't been able to buy better seats last week and I felt annoyed for the man ahead of us at the box office trying to buy cheap seats for his kids for tonight--they should be offering twofers to fill up the place. People will definitely be moving around just like they did last night.

I'm partial to the Mary Stewart books on the Arthurian legends, with Marion Zimmer Bradley's effort in second place. The Once and Future King has never done it for me at all and I think that Disney's attempt at that story is one of its least successful animated film.

It was very easy to see why the Kennedy administration chose or had "Camelot"chosen as its theme. It is all the sadder to look at that choice from more than 40 years later, for both the successes and the failures resound in the lyrics and dialogue.

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