Beloved musical ‘Camelot’ reimagined at Westport Playhouse
For fans of musical theater, “Camelot” — with Richard Burton as King Arthur — is the stuff of legend, debuting on Broadway in 1960 with Julie Andrews as Queen Guenevere and Robert Goulet as her lover, Sir Lancelot.
This love-triangle saga broke plenty of hearts then, and it is poised to do so again when a “reimagined, streamlined” retelling opens on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Westport Country Playhouse. Tony Award-winner Robert Sean Leonard, who is known for his ability to imbue characters with both gravitas and poignancy, will portray the emotionally wounded King Arthur.
With its lush score and touching lyrics, the Lerner and Loewe musical will feature a book adapted by David Lee and directed by Mark Lamos, whose vast credits include productions on Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theater and with the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera.
Lamos, in a recent telephone chat from his New York City abode, said the 1960 production was initially unwieldy, running almost five hours (as do many an opera), with a plethora of characters and subplots.
Lee’s version, Lamos said, focuses on four main characters: King Arthur, Lancelot (portrayed by Stephen Mark Lukas, of the Broadway and national tours of “The Book of Mormon”), Guenevere (Britney Coleman, of the first national tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”) and the traitor Mordred (Patrick Andrews).
Because the traditional “Camelot” is such a huge production (with an exorbitant price tag), it is rarely revived, Lamos said. Lee adapted the musical because “of a desire to make it more doable for this day and age ... to give it a more manageable and affordable size.”
Changes aside, Lamos said the reworking in no way minimizes the beauty of the piece. “It’s one of the great romantic stories of all time,” with plenty of intrigue and chivalrous behavior oozing from the Knights of the Round Table, he added.
It features new orchestrations by Steve Orich, an eight-piece orchestra directed by Wayne Barker and choreography by Connor Gallagher.
Artistic director at Westport since 2009, Lamos, 70, continues to love his work, “finding it so energizing ... it’s wonderful mental stimulation.” A benefit of aging is that he is able to “draw upon a lifetime of experience. So now, when I come upon a challenge, I can panic a little less,” he added, laughing.