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For one brief shining moment

TiVo is a marvelous contraption, for it caught Sunday's Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of the NY Phil's semi-staged Camelot, which I had no idea was happening on account of life-on-spin-cycle. Last night I decided to take an evening to sit down and watch it and decompress rather than try to Get Stuff Done, with the result that I think more Stuff might well Get Done tonight than might otherwise have last night and tonight together. (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. *nodnodnodnodnod*)

While it was far from an ideal Camelot, it had its moments. Most of them provided by Nathan Gunn, who is, if not the BEST LANCELOT EVER, a ludicriously close second to Richard White. Yes, the opera star with (I'm given to understand) no musical theatre credits? Put everyone but maybe Marin Mazzie to shame. Serious whoa.

Christopher Lloyd as Pellinore = well, of course. Also, I'm reasonably certain there was some ad-libbed color in the description of the Questing Beast, among other things. Stacy Keach was a perfectly serviceable Merlin.

The book was shuffled oddly in a few places ("Before I Gaze" in Act II? Srsly?), and I remain convinced that if you're cutting anything, the entire Morgan LeFay scene should be the first to go (thus rendering the casting of Fran Drescher a moot point). It just doesn't fit. Hateithateithateit. (Probably doesn't help that I imprinted hard on the 1982 revival. But they were right to cut it! And wrong to cut "Fie on Goodness," which this one did too. I don't know if people don't want it to look like Mordred corrupts the knights too easily or what, but dude, that's the point: the Table was ALWAYS fragile. It represents change that's incredibly hard to implement, and incredibly easy to backslide from.) Haven't decided yet what I think of Goth!Mordred -- the whole production is an odd mix of contemporary and pseudo-period design, and there's a way in which it makes sense, but he's perhaps a bit too jarring.

Gabriel Byrne seems like a no-brainer for Arthur in theory (even if he hadn't started his movie career as Uther!), but in practice, errrrmm. Speak-singing still needs to have a bit more relationship to what the orchestra is doing. He plugged along pretty gamely, but he was the one you could really tell was underrehearsed and out of his element.

Which was a pity, because for the bits where the singing was taken out of the equation, there were some solid "oh, yeah, that" moments. Not that my heart doesn't break for any Arthur during Guenevere's aborted execution -- the scene is constructed to be pretty well cast-proof -- but you could see Mordred's lines ("Let her die, your life is over; let her live, your life's a fraud!") hitting him and cutting deep.

And of course I will never not get chills during the "Resolution" speech that closes Act I, and never not cry at the knighting of Tom of Warwick. Do justice to those, and you're allowed to be Arthur. (Even if Byrne did drop "not a man" after "I am a king," which gives me a cramp in my sense of rhetoric.)

I love that speech so very, very much...

Proposition: If I could choose from every woman who breathes on this earth, the face I would most love -- the smile, the touch, the heart, the voice, the laugh, the very soul itself, every detail and feature to the last strand of the hair -- it would all be Jenny.

Proposition: If I could choose from every man who breathes on this earth -- a man for my brother, a man for my son, and a man for my friend, it would all be Lance.

I love them. I love them and they answer me with pain. And torment. Be it sin, or not sin, they have betrayed me in their hearts, and that's far sin enough! I can see it in their eyes. I can feel it when they speak. And they must pay for it and be punished. I shall not be wounded and not return it in kind. I demand a man's vengeance!

Proposition: I am a king, not a man. And a very civilized king. Could it possibly be civilized to destroy the thing I love? Could it possibly be civilized to love myself above all? What about their pain? And their torment? Did they ask for this calamity? Can passion be selected? Is there any doubt of their devotion to me, and to our Table?

By God, I shall be a king! This is the time of King Arthur, when we shall reach for the stars. This is the time of King Arthur, when violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness. We are civilized!

Resolved: We shall live through this together, Excalibur, they, you, and I. And may God have mercy on us all.

Chills, man. I know a lot of people who really hate the show, and I will never ever understand.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 15th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
I love Camelot. I actually got to see it on stage with Richard Harris many years ago. It was wonderful!
May. 15th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
Oooooh, so jealous!! I still have that production mostly memorized just from all the times I watched it on HBO.

I did get to see the '95 tour that started at the Paper Mill (Robert Goulet/Glory Crampton/Richard White). It had the same director, and was very close to the '82 revival, with the added benefit of "Fie on Goodness" being put back in. Although Goulet, while not as iffy an Arthur as one might think, was no Richard Harris.
May. 15th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
The first time I saw it was the one broadcast on HBO -- loved it. And very shortly after that, I got to see it up close at a dinner theatre in Boulder, and I was young enough not to be nitpicky. I looooved it that much. Never all that fond of Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere, but most of the time, I just love the show no matter who's in it.
May. 15th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
Hee! I saw it at Country Dinner Playhouse around then. CDP and BDT are run by the same people -- they must have moved the production from one to the other.

And yeah, Vanessa Redgrave is the main reason I don't much care for the movie.

Edited at 2008-05-15 09:26 pm (UTC)
May. 15th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
Fran Drescher????? As Morgan le Fay???? What's she going to do, slay them with her accent???
May. 15th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Sadly, it actually fits that version of her. Hate that scene so very, very much.
May. 15th, 2008 11:10 pm (UTC)
Dream casting
I never saw this. But long ago, I heard there had been a national tour with Brent Spiner as Mordred.
May. 16th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
Re: Dream casting
Oh, that would have been something to see!

I still wish there were more than the Ed Sullivan footage of Roddy McDowall. *sigh*
May. 16th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
On a side note, did I tell you that Country Dinner Playhouse closed last year? They announced the closure and that was it, they closed that day. I was sad about that.

May. 16th, 2008 12:39 am (UTC)
Oh, that is sad! But Bill pretty much was that place. I always wondered if it would continue past his retirement or passing.

Edited at 2008-05-16 12:17 pm (UTC)
May. 16th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
This is going to be one of those times where you and I look at each other quizzically.

I saw it when it was in Ft. Lauderdale this past summer. (Side note: how great is it to have friends who work high up in Broadway Across America? Free tix to everything! Except Wicked.) While I don't hate the show, it was a three hour long show that felt like a three hour long show. I was very aware of time passing, and that's not a good thing.
May. 16th, 2008 11:58 am (UTC)
Was that the one with Michael York? I heard about it in passing, but don't know much about it.

It so should not feel like a three hour show. Or even be one, for that matter. If it's more than 2 1/2, the director needs a talking to. And it shouldn't feel like 2 1/2 either.
May. 16th, 2008 12:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, it was the one with Michael York. He smiled a lot. Far, far too much, actually as I remember it.
May. 16th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
I've never seen it, neither on screen nor in person. --- What? I'm a passing competent Arthurian, honest! ;-) --- Shall I get a version via my public library? I'm sure they have a movie version on hand, and could order any version available on DVD.
May. 16th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
I don't recommend the movie. Vanessa Redgrave annoys me terribly, Harris' Arthur is only the seeds of what he would make him on stage later, they cut the bewitching of Merlin (and gave "Follow Me" to a children's chorus for a random background thing later on), and I generally found it dull and restless watching. It's not a travesty (that would be Man of La Mancha), but I wouldn't make it the first exposure for someone I wanted to actually like the show.

I'm hopelessly biased in favor of the filmed version of the 1982 revival, if you can get hold of it. It's what I fell in love with at 12, and memorized by watching heaven-knows-how-many airings on HBO when we didn't yet have a VCR. It still holds up for me as, if not definitive (there's a cut or two I wish they hadn't made), as close as I think you can get on video. Some people care that Richard Harris' age and style of stage makeup don't stand up well to closeups; I don't. Harris and Meg Bussert are the Arthur and Guenevere for me. The Lancelot isn't the, but he's good, and all the character parts are delightful.
May. 19th, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC)
I second everything you said. It was a performance with some beautiful moments. I missed "Fie on Goodness", too.
May. 20th, 2008 12:52 pm (UTC)
I wish someone would explain to me why it gets cut so often.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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