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THEATER REVIEW

This 'Camelot' is only a model

The designs ensure that the tour has the look, but it lacks the feel. Lou Diamond Phillips struggles as Arthur.

September 15, 2007|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

There may be a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering than Royce Hall, where the national tour of "Camelot" rematerialized Wednesday. It's not the venue's fault. This revised incarnation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1960 musical addresses some contradictions that its La Mirada premiere revealed in January, yet paradoxes linger.

Certain oddities in Michael A.M. Lerner and director Glenn Casale's staging of this unkempt classic are now less glaring. Thankfully, they have restored "I Loved You Once in Silence," which touchingly precedes the relocated "If Ever I Would Leave You," even with soapy dialogue cueing that standard. Choreographer Dan Mojica refines his "Lusty Month of May" mayhem into something more frisky than blatant. Musical director Craig Barna leads a bright orchestra, the tribal motifs only rarely halting Loewe's melodic sweep.

Although some seams show, the bus-and-truck designs retain their punch, with John Iacovelli's sets an atmospheric amalgam of Arthur Rackham forestry and pre-Bayeux Tapestry austerity. The mix of shiny fabrics that costume designer Marcy Froehlich uses is dizzying but vivid, and Tom Ruzika's rich lighting is expert.

Time Winters has sharpened his bluster as Pellinore. Shannon Stoeke attacks Mordred's reinstated "Seven Deadly Virtues" with fey venom. The ever-reliable Eric Anderson as dreadlocked Merlyn no longer flies off into his enchantment by Nimué (Melina Kalomas), for which we can only be grateful.

However, original stars Michael York, Rachel York and James Barbour have departed, shifting conceptual weight. Even with sketchy chemistry, their respective courtliness, brilliance and sonority at least gave us simple folk something to sit around and wonder about.

Now we have Lou Diamond Phillips as idealistic King Arthur, Rachel de Benedet as his conflicted queen and Matt Bogart as the sanctimonious knight who comes between them. Bogart gives Lancelot sweet-toned assurance in "C'est Moi" and "Leave You" -- his French accent is pure Clouseau. As Guenevere, De Benedet suggests a singing Jane Seymour, most effective in her ballads ("Before I Gaze at You Again" now occurs thrice).

Phillips works hard as Arthur, but he hardly evokes a Brit, the speeches emphatic without texture, the thin singing almost making us glad that "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" is minus a verse.

Most troubling is the lack of emotional content. A schematic tone permeates the whole, which the ensemble performs with dutiful competence. Perhaps this "Camelot" is destined to succeed as an animated film. I wonder what Brad Bird is doing tonight.

--

'Camelot'

Where: Royce Hall, UCLA,

340 Royce Drive, L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through

Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays,

1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Sept. 23

Price: $25 to $75

Contact: (213) 365-3500

or (714) 740-7878

Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

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