Monday, August 3, 2009

The Brandywiners: Love and Betrayal in Camelot

The Brandywiners, a musical theater company now in its 78th year, presented “Camelot” on Friday evening, nicely staged by James F. Smith. This grand production, complete with full orchestra and colorful medieval costumes, graced the outdoor stage at Longwood Gardens. The company provides a stage for local amateur and professional thespians, while supporting civic organizations and charities through ticket sale proceeds.

The orchestra, assembled and directed by C. Lawler Rogers, Sr. is stunning. The balance between the accompaniment and the cast is excellent, with each note from the pit precise and in tune. The actors do well with Lerner and Loewe’s bittersweet musical, which is sometimes heavy on the dialogue. The show’s hilarious, yet telling one-liners keep the first act light: Arthur asks Merlin why he has never taught him of love and marriage and Merlin chides, “Don’t scramble them together that way.” The second act becomes dark and brooding: a tale of betrayal and greed. The music, humor and quirky storybook characters keep the show engaging.

Erin Cates plays a sympathetic Guenevere, singing with a clear, sweet tone. Guenevere’s “Before I Gaze at You Again” is one of musical theatre’s gems with its haunting melody and expansive phrases. Kudos to Ted Harding (Arthur) who reprises the role he did with the Brandywiners in 1981. Alexander Bowditch’s (Mordred) cuts through the stage like a knife with his confident and perfectly evil performance. He leads the men’s chorus in “Fie on Goodness”, one of the wittiest numbers in the show. In this number, we catch Broadway at its best and raunchiest, well before the “politically correct” movement made its presence known. One man sings, “When I think of the pleasures that earlier filled my life…Like the time I beheaded a man who was beating his naked wife”.

In addition to its annual summer production, the group also performs concerts of Broadway and American music under the auspices of the Brandywiners Chorale.


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