Award-winning films aren’t the only place to see clanking swords these days: Hale Center Theater’s production of “Camelot” has plenty of them, along with some dry wit and a heartbreaking romance.
The story takes place during the mythical era of Camelot, a “fleeting whisp of glory” during which King Arthur (Cody Hale) brings about peace and unity after years of death and squallor.
Arthur is idealistic and innocent, terrified of his impending marriage to Lady Guenevere (Heather Ferguson) and a little lost without his mentor, the wizard Merlin (Ken Hillam).
He and Guenevere fall in love, though, and after five years he develops the idea of the Round Table. All knights are invited to join the guild, which would promote justice and use strength for purposes of good (i.e., no more whacking the heads off peasants just for the fun of it). The plan is a success.
Among the knights who answer Arthur’s call is Lancelot (Brad Montgomery), a pompous and boastful Frenchman who, it happens, actually is all the things he says he is. His loyalty to Arthur is absolute, and he seems to be perfect. Guenevere is annoyed by his egotism, but Lancelot grows on her, and soon they are in love.
The love triangle here is a beautifully complicated one. Arthur the human being is jealous and hurt that his best friend and his wife have feelings for each other, but Arthur the king can’t let his passions ruin the relative tranquility he has established in the kingdom.
Guenevere and Lancelot, meanwhile, both love Arthur and would do nothing to hurt him. But they love each other, too.
Evil Scotsman Mordred (Nathan Wright) represents the world in this scenario, ultimately bringing Camelot out of its fairy-tale existence and causing everyone’s weaknesses to catch up with them. Nathan Wright is supremely weaselly in the role.
Cody Hale makes a fine Arthur, earning audience sympathy for the king’s good intentions despite the fact that Arthur consistently makes poor decisions. Heather Ferguson and Brad Montgomery both have beautiful singing voices, and their scenes together as Guenevere and Lancelot are charming.
Mike Gray is also excellent as the comic relief, a charismatic king named Pelinore. Rather than overplaying the role’s buffoonery, which would be easy to do, Gray plays it straight and gets more laughs in the process.
While lighting and costumes are always good at the Hale Center Theater, they are particularly noteworthy here. Arthur’s imprisonment within invisible walls is awesomely conveyed with some nifty lighting tricks, and everyone’s gowns and chain mail are authentic-looking.
Several of the show’s songs are soliloquies, leaving the singer with nothing to do but pace around the stage. Though it would make more sense to stand still, some movement is probably necessary in a theater-in-the-round setting, so it’s forgivable — especially considering most other aspects of the show are enjoyably well-played and realistic.
I think this review has the dumbest lead I'd ever written. The Oscars were awarded the night before I wrote it, and "Gladiator" won a lot of them, which I guess is more an explanation than an excuse.