AMANA — The lusty month of May that Guenevere sings about got off to an early start this week, with a sparkling new adaptation of “Camelot.”
The show, which opened Thursday and continues through May 20 at the Old Creamery Theatre, preserves the integrity of the story and the beauty of the music.
The sparkle originates with Emmy-winning writer David Lee, who spent the 1973-74 season with the Old Creamery acting troupe in Garrison, and flows through Meg Sharp, who shines as Queen Guenevere, caught in a heart-wrenching love triangle with King Arthur and the dashing Lancelot.
Lee, who returned to his native California after his stint in Garrison, helped create and shape some of television’s most memorable sitcoms, including “The Jeffersons,” “Cheers,” “Wings” and “Frasier.” So his award-winning imagination and sparkling dialogue find the essence of the 1960 Lerner and Loewe version that runs more than three hours, and strips it down to two hours, using seven men and one woman. The Old Creamery added a handmaiden for Guenevere to pump up the vocal balance and the female presence onstage.
It all works so beautifully.
The characters who were removed are not missed. Merlin still is mentioned several times, so his wisdom and wizardry continue to swirl around Arthur, especially at moments of crisis for the pacifist king.
Key knights are still there and the horrid Mordred continues to vex Arthur with his quest to destroy the Round Table and its king. Matthew Blake Johnson from New York is superb as the unctuous, morbid Mordred. He is so detestable, with no redeeming qualities.
At the other end of the spectrum, Matthew Aaron, also based in New York, brings such heart to Arthur. He’s playful and awkward in a chance meeting with Guenevere before their arranged marriage, then grows tender and loving as their love blossoms. He has such a heart-melting moment when he sings “the way to handle a woman is to love her, simply love her, merely love her, love her, love her.” And so my heart shattered with his growing realization that Lancelot was pulling his beloved Guenevere away.
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Perry Sook of New York is daring, arrogant and brave as the handsome Lancelot, wrapping his booming, resonant voice around the cavalier “C’est Moi” and later, the romantic “If Ever I Would Leave You.”
But it’s Georgia native Sharp who imbues the show with such joy as Guenevere, with turns coquettish and sweet, wistful and wise. While it would be easy to be angry with her as she turns away from Arthur, her underlying devotion to him is palpable right up to the end.
All three leads have such magnificent voices, that every song they sing is a wonder and delight.
The rough-hewed unit set serves the show well, changing easily from bedroom to battlefield. Marquetta Senters’ costumes also transform quickly as easily, with the addition of a cloak or vest or frill. The choreography by Keegan Christopher and Katie Colletta keeps the action moving and grounded in the Middle Ages, from percussive thumping and lighthearted frolics around a maypole to jousting and deadly swordplay.
Guest director Randy West from Great Plains Theatre in Abilene, Kan. — where the show will move after ending in Amana — conducts the action and characters in a most regal way. The show is definitely a
jewel in the Old Creamery’s crown.
If you go
• What: “Camelot”
• Where: Old Creamery Theatre, 39 38th Ave., Amana
• When: To May 20; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday
• About: Music by Lerner and Loewe, story adaptation by David Lee
• Tickets: $31.50 adults, $19.50 students, Old Creamery Box Office, (319) 622-6262 or Oldcreamery.com
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