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CAMELOT rides into San Francisco on Harley motorcycles!

By August 5, 2015No Comments

Kedar [rating:5] (5/5 stars)

Lancelot (Wilson Jermaine Heredia*), King Arthur (Johnny Moreno*) and Guenevere (Monique Hafen*) at Knighting Ceremony Photos by Jessica Palopoli.

CAMELOT: Musical. Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.Music by Frederick Loewe. Based on “Once and Future King” by T.H. White. Directed by Bill English. Music director Dave Dobrusky. July 16 – September 14, 2013.

CAMELOT rides into San Francisco on Harley motorcycles!

We aficionados (with synonyms of connoisseurs, devotees, enthusiasts, fanatics) of the SF Playhouse are mostly inured to seeing volatile productions of the under-belly of society parade the boards of their theatre. They have done it again with an ‘in your face’ staging of the musical Camelot. If any of their productions can be summarized with Harold Ross’s 1925 quote from “The New Yorker”, “It has announced that it is not edited [produced] for the old lady in Dubuque” , this staging of the once (and hopefully future) uplifting King Arthur/Round Table/Camelot story is it.

Last year Bill English’s re-imagination of My Fair Lady at their former intimate Sutter Street Theatre was a success and played to substantial crowds throughout the summer. It seems that the “summer musical” has become a standard for SF Playhouse to catch the vacation crowds that swarm San Francisco. This year they are in the substantially larger venue (up from 99 to 265 seats) that has a huge stage with a plethora of technical equipment. For Camelot Nina Ball has created a massive set using two or three turntables, an integrated rear stage screen for impressive projects and to hide the (count them) eight piece orchestra under SF favorite Dave Dobrusky. The well-known and acclaimed title of Camelot will surely attract crowds.

Those crowds will be overwhelmed with the colossal staging but they will not be humming the charming tunes associated with the musical but rather be shaking their heads as many were on opening night. Although there was appreciative applause at the curtain, the usual spontaneous standing ovation was absent.

Wilson Jermaine Heredia* as Lancelot prepares to battle knights

It was absent for good reason despite a spectacular performance by Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Lancelot. Heredia is a Tony and Oliver Award winner for his role as Angel in the Broadway and London productions of Rent.  Director English, using some of  his own words, has created knights in the mold of grungy (costumes by Abra Berman) bikers (Ken Brill, Rudy Guerrero, Robert Moreno, George P. Scott), Guenevere (Monique Hafen) as an angry Goth princess, King Arthur (Johnny Moreno) as a day-dreaming dolt and Mordred as a potential to play Richard III. Charles Dean a Bay Area favorite who brought the house down with his role as Doolittle in My Fair Lady is cast as both the magician Merlyn and Arthur’s confidant Pelinore.  Sadly, the only distinction in those characterizations is a change of costume.

There is much to like about this twisted version of what should be a romantic escapist evening that includes excellent singing voices (with exception of Johnny Moreno’s limited range), eye-catching projections, energetic acting and exuberant fight scenes staged by Heredia. The marvelous score and lyrics are still enchanting and include “Camelot”, “Follow Me”, “The lusty Month of May”, “How to Handle a Woman”, “Before I gaze at You Again”, “If Ever I Should Leave You”,  and “I loved You Once In Silence.”

Running time 2 hours and 40 minutes including the intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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