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August 3, 2011
Gaines, O'Hare deliver bravura performances in 'Camelot'

By Marcus Crowder

mcrowder@sacbee.com

"Don't let it be forgot, that there once was a spot, for a brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot."

Those words, King Arthur's coda at the end of Lerner and Loewe's musical have come to symbolize so much more than the play they come from. Quoted by President Kennedy as his favorite lines from the play just a week before his assassination, the words came to symbolize his administration and its ambitions.

The musical itself still has much to recommend it as seen in the affecting production now at the Music Circus. Led by a powerfully compelling performance by Davis Gaines as the circumspect King Arthur, "Camelot" is one of the more heady productions that the Music Circus will present. Lisa O'Hare matches Gaines with her wonderful performance as his lusty queen Guenevere.


Camelot
What: The Music Circus produces the late Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe classic with bravura performances from Davis Gaines and Lisa O'Hare.

When: 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. today and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday (last show)

Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento

Cost: $42-$74

Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes, including one intermission

Information: (916) 557-1999, www. californiamusicaltheatre.com

3 1/2 stars

This nearly perfect pairing carries director Glenn Casale's stately production with a rarely seen combination of grace, humor and intimacy from the two exquisitely voiced actors.

Coming on the heels of Lerner and Loewe's greatest success "My Fair Lady," "Camelot" has always suffered from the comparisons of being not as good. But what is? The music here has a beautiful, elegant, wistful quality which underscores the same elements in the mythical story.

The oft-told Arthurian legend with book and lyric writer Alan Jay Lerner culled from T.H. White's book "The Once and Future King" centers around the Utopian environment Arthur creates. He has met and married Guenevere in an arranged marriage which becomes a love match after the two meet cute in the woods surrounding Arthur's castle.

The two early defining songs, Arthur's "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight" and Guenevere's "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood" show us depth of character musicals rarely reach. Gaines' goofy, earnest Arthur and O'Hare's intense but unpretentious Guenevere may not quite be suited for the royal life. But they recognize the kindred spirits in each other, and they set off together.

Arthur's romantic notion of chivalry with his Knights of the Round Table brings the French knight Lancelot du Lac to the castle, and that's the beginning of the end. Though Guenevere initially detests the pious overbearing friend of her husband, they are soon casting longing glances at each other which no one in court can ignore.

Sean Hayden's stiff self-absorbed Lancelot introduces himself with the comically aware "C'est Moi" but reveals himself with the classic ballad "If Ever I Should Leave You."

The lush original costumes are designed by Marcy Froehlich, but parts of them came from a McCoy-Rigby production and the Utah Festival Opera, and they are glorious throughout.

The superb performances and visible chemistry of Gaines and O'Hare elevate this thoughtful show.

Call the Bee's Marcus Crowder at (916)321-1120.

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