Music Circus’ current production — its first in the Wells Fargo Pavilion, the previous production of “Camelot” having played in the old tent in 2002 — does not disappoint and hits all the right magical points throughout.
For starters, there is Davis Gaines as Arthur, the unexpected king who is poised on the brink of greatness, but still needs to turn to his friend, the magician Merlin (Time Winters) for advice.
Gaines, with a hefty biography including more than 2,000 performances as the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, is an unforgettable Arthur. He neatly balances the uncertainty of a fledgling king with the nobility of a king who is reaching his full potential. His is an Arthur to rival Richard Burton’s, though he has a much better voice.
A newcomer to Music Circus is Lisa O’Hare as Guinevere, the princess brought to Camelot to marry the king in a trade agreement. She’s angry about the her “youth being sold” and afraid she will never have the “simple joys of maidenhood.”
“Shall two knights never tilt for me
and let their blood be spilt for me?
Oh where are the simple joys of maidenhood?”
O’Hare has an elfin charm about her that makes her mesmerizing. There is a special charisma with Gaines that makes it almost impossible to understand how she could be drawn away from the king to an attraction with Lancelot.
The story follows the reign of the idealistic Arthur, who develops the idea of the Round Table, a guild of Knights, that would promote justice and use strength for purposes of good — might for right, rather than might makes right (i.e., no more whacking the heads off peasants just for the fun of it).
One of the knights answering the call is Lancelot du Lac (Sean Hayden), a pompous, self-adulating Frenchman who desires only to serve the great King Arthur. He’s confident, almost swaggering, and his quest for inner perfection to go with his physical prowess annoys everyone, especially Guenevere, who bribes three of the best knights to joust with him.
When Lancelot surprises everyone by winning the jousts and mortally wounding (and then bringing back to life) one of the three, the queen begins to see him in a different light and falls in love with him.
Shannon Stoke is Arthur’s illegitimate son Mordred, determined to destroy Arthur’s dreams for a world of laws. He’s a spoiled, bitchy young man whom Stoke played to the hilt; Stoke enjoyed a chorus of boos at the curtain call.
Time Winters is the wise Merlin in the opening scene, the magician who lives life backwards and is able to help Arthur because he can “remember the future” and knows what is coming. But, alas, he is spirited away by the spell of Nimue, the Lady of the Lake (Karen Culliver), leaving Arthur to his own devices.
Winters returns as the delightfully befuddled, eccentric Pellinore, who has been roaming the lands for 18 years looking to fight “the beast.”
(Culliver also returns as Guinevere’s best friend, Lady Anne.)
“Camelot” is the story of honor, of love, of friendship, of betrayal, of remorse and of honor again, as Lancelot and Guinevere deal with their love for each other and their mutual love for Arthur, whom they do not wish to hurt.
Arthur also must deal with his love for his wife and his best friend, but sets thoughts of revenge aside following their betrayal, because he still loves them both and would rather see them happy together than to lose them completely.
In the end, nobody wins.
But it is young Tom of Warwick (Alex Greenlee) who saves the day. He is a lad who has heard tales of the work of the round table and who was inspired to come and serve. Arthur realizes it is Tom who will carry his message to a new generation, and perhaps his work will not have been in vain after all.
Glenn Casale has directed a beautiful production, made more enchanting by the costumes, especially for Guinevere. The costume designer is listed as Mark Koss, with a notation that the original costumes were designed by Marcy Froehlich, with additional costumes designed and built by the Utah Festival Opera. It’s not clear who gets the credit for Guinevere’s costumes, but they were outstanding.
This is a beautiful, memorable production for Music Circus.