Author: Marie McAden
The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina is giving theater patrons their Christmas wish—a magnificent new production of the Broadway classic Camelot.
The Tony Award-winning play, running Dec. 5-30 in the Elizabeth Wallace Theatre, was the most requested musical of Arts Center audiences surveyed last spring. Beloved for its timeless music, the Lerner and Loewe score features the romantic ballad, If Ever I Would Leave You.
“That’s the song everybody waits for,” said New York Director, Casey Colgan, who most recently directed A Chorus Line, Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story for the Arts Center. “I think it’s why Camelot has remained so popular all these years.”
Based on the legend of King Arthur, as told in T. H. White’s novel The Once and Future King, the original production premiered on Broadway in 1960, winning four Tony Awards.
The musical gained even greater fame following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when it was revealed the late president often listened to the cast album before going to bed. His favorite lines, his wife Jacqueline had said, were from the final number in which Arthur knights a young boy and tells him to pass on the story of Camelot to future generations: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot.” Since then, Camelot has been associated with the Kennedy presidency.
“It’s this idyllic place where honor and chivalry reign,” Colgan said of Arthur’s legendary kingdom. “He drums up the idea for a round table so all the knights would be equal.”
But the dream is lost when Arthur’s friend, Sir Lancelot, falls in love with his wife, Queen Guenevere.
“It’s an extremely complicated love triangle,” said New York actor, Jeff Wolf, who is making his debut at the Arts Center in the role of the king. “Arthur could easily get rid of Lancelot, but he believes in the greater good. He wants to uphold the ideals of the round table.”
Playing Arthur’s wife, Guenevere, is another Arts Center newcomer, Erin Stewart. The gifted soprano left a nearly two-year run with the Broadway national tour of Phantom of the Opera to join the Camelot cast.
“The role is right up my alley,” said Stewart, who earned a master’s degree in music with a focus on voice performance from the Manhattan School of Music. “It calls for operatic singing, not the usual Broadway sound where you belt out the songs.”
Before joining the cast of Phantom, Stewart played Barbarina in a production of The Marriage of Figaro at Metro Lyric Opera in New Jersey. The Asbury Park Press hailed the young singer as “a surprisingly electric stage presence with a firm grasp of her character and a natural, easy power to her voice.”
Stewart’s other operatic credits include Nora in Riders to the Sea, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi and Nancy in Albert Herring.
“I got chills when she began singing The Lusty Month of May,” Colgan said of Stewart’s audition. “She is simply outstanding.”
The show’s grandiose music will be complemented by equally spectacular period costumes made from rich velvets and velours, trimmed with stones and jewels. Guenevere alone will wear 11 different dresses.
“It’s a major spectacle of costumes,” said Arts Center costume designer, Jennifer Correll. “They are royalty, after all.”
Performances of Camelot are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with a special 1 p.m. Christmas Eve matinee and Sunday shows at 2 p.m. Dec. 9, 16, 23 and 30 and 7 p.m. Dec. 9. Admission is $51 for adults ($48 for Dec. 5 and 6 previews), $36 for children under 16 ($34 for the previews). Purchase tickets at the Arts Center box office or by phone with a credit card by calling 842-ARTS (2787). Ticket prices include a $5 facility fee.
Subscriptions to the Arts Center’s 2007-08 Theater Series also are available offering discounted tickets to Camelot, Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee, The Producers and The Buddy Holly Story.
Choose from the Full-Season Plan, which includes one ticket to each of the four remaining plays, or the Flex Plan, which includes four tickets that can be redeemed in any fashion—one for each of the four plays, four for one of the plays or in any other combination.