The once and future king
“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.”
The Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., is bringing back to life that one brief, shining moment along with King Arthur, Lancelot, Guenevere with its production of Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot.”
The musical opens up the center’s 37th season, and runs Sept. 10 to Oct. 6. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
“I wanted to go back to the original text (T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King”) for this version, and really treat it like historical fiction,” said director Rod A. Lansberry.
“This applied to things like costume design and the different accents of the knights.”
Lansberry also cast younger actors than people may expect, because in reality the life expectancy of the time was around 35 to 40 years old, so everyone would have been younger during these events.
“Camelot” tells the story of King Arthur’s (David Bryant Johnson) legendary Round Table and the knights who came from all over the country to try to forge a new world order, one where might makes right gives way to might for right.
“The knights are really struggling with the changes that Arthur is proposing,” Lansberry said.
“They’re also coming from all over the country, so you have this group of people who are very eclectic and concerned with their own plans. Arthur has to bring all these disparate people together to create something new.”
Johnson said that throughout the production, audiences will see Arthur age as the burdens of trying to keep these fragile ties intact wear him down.
“The great thing about this production is Rod embraced the fact that these people came from all these different places,” Johnson said. “We worked with a dialect coach to give actors different accents, and it just adds an amazing layer of variety to these knights.”
Of course, the other thing that is wearing Arthur down is the affair between his queen, Guenevere (Melissa Mitchell) and his best friend, Lancelot (Glenn Seven Allen).
“‘Camelot’ really is the story of Arthur, Lancelot and Guenevere, and how these three people try to make sense of their relationships and how they develop as people,” Lansberry said. “All three deeply love each other, and they’re constantly questioning each other and their motives.”
Johnson said that one the things he finds most admirable about Arthur is the pain he puts up with to keep his new idea of chivalry alive.
“Arthur is willing to spare the lives of the two people he loves so much — and in the process cause himself a lot of pain, and he lives with that pain so he can ensure that his idea isn’t a fraud,” Johnson said.
Both Johnson and Lansberry said that the production brings a sense of realism to “Camelot” that has been lacking in some versions of the story.
“The armor is pretty amazing — it’s hard to understand how people were able to move so fast in it,” Johnson said. “When you put on a costume like that, it really is like putting on someone else’s skin.”
This is the “Camelot” people are familiar with, but Lansberry said, it has a few twists to make it more engaging.
“I wanted to make sure to give the audience what they want, but I also needed to give a better story, so they understand and identify, not just watch” Lansberry said. “This is a fresh, new version that is more realistic, and I think will really draw them in.”