Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Based on The Once and Future King,
By T. H. White
March 11-27, 1999
St. Marcus Theatre, St. Louis
THE CASTArthur Pendragon – Ted Cancila
Guenevere – Deborah Sharn
Lancelot du Lac – Karl E. Berberich
Merlyn/Pellinore – Steve Johnson
Sir Dinadan – Kevin Collier
Sir Lionel – Keith Thompson
Sir Sagramore – Jesse Lawder
Sir Castor – Jerry Smith
Sir Gawaine/Mordred – Walter Marts
Nimué/Lady Catherine – Kimi Short
Morgan Le Fay/Lady Elaine – Rebecca Hunter
Lady Anne/Tom of Warwick – Sarah Laak
Lady Sybil – Johanna Schloss
THE ARTISTIC STAFFDirectors – Scott Miller, Alison Helmer
Music Director – Scott Miller
Lighting Designer – Jamie Brink
Costume Designer – Elizabeth Krausnick
Technical Director – Karl Berberich
Lighting Technician – Sara Epstein
Stage Manager – Amy Francis Schott
Weapons Designer – Bryan Fick
Box Office Manager – Steve Dohrmann
Graphic Design – Laura Aeling
Piano – Steven C. Showalter
Guitar/Mandolin – D. Mike Bauer
Trumpet – Paul Hecht
Percussion – Adam Kopff
“This show does not look, sound, or feel like any other Camelot [but] . . . this stripped down version has a lot going for it.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“It’s a longish evening, but so full of fine voices and serious, convincing performances, that its command of our attention is unfailing.” – Steve Callahan, KDHX-FM
“The musical’s dark ending doesn’t jar against too light and romantic a tone in the earlier scenes. Elemental passions and their potential for trouble lurk in the first moments, when even wise Merlin succumbs to the seductions of the flesh.” – Bob Wilcox, The Riverfront Times
DIRECTOR'S NOTESWhy Camelot? For a company known for doing Assassins, Sweeney Todd, and Out on Broadway, it seems a strange choice.
Well, I've been answering that question for a year now. And the answer keeps changing. It seems now there are two answers.
First, I'm crazy. And so is everyone who works with me.
Second, Camelot is a near masterpiece. It deals with some extremely heavy issues, all still relevant, with surprising parallels to our current scandal-ridden government [with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinksy]. And its themes of sex, violence, betrayal, and death are the same themes we've explored in our other work.
What we discovered was that this story and these characters have a complexity and a depth that has been lost or ignored over the years. Going back to the source, The Once and Future King, we found richer, deeper characters than we'd ever seen in this show before, characters the original production no doubt explored fully but that have been forgotten and simplified over time.
Camelot is no fairy tale. It's a fiery, tragic, thought-provoking fable that somehow manages to make us laugh along the way.
But though it's a masterpiece, it's one with flaws and that makes it a tremendous challenge. How do you make an audience care about Arthur who continually refuses to face the obvious dangers that lurk behind every corner of his court? Or Guenevere, who has the gentlest, most caring husband in the world, and leaves him for another man? And what about Lancelot, who sleeps with his best friend's wife?
The answer is to explore why Arthur ignores the signs, what is missing in Arthur and Guenevere's marriage, what Guenevere needs that Arthur can't give her and that Lance can, and how Lance can balance his obsessive love for Arthur and his passionate love for Guenevere. This is a show about passions – Arthur's passion for the philosophy of law and for changing the world, Guenevere's passion for life and romance, Lancelot's passion for Arthur's dream and for Guenevere's love.
Ours is a muscular, aggressive, confrontational Camelot, one that lives not in the world of musical comedy, but instead in the dark world of Arthur, King of the Britons, and his knights of the Round Table. This is one of the greatest legends of the western world. We hope that we have brought to it the power and depth of understanding that it deserves.
As with all our shows, what we're attempting requires more from you, the audience, than most musicals ask, but we hope that the rewards for your efforts will be considerable. Enjoy.
For years, I had wanted to do Camelot small. Intimate, close up, psychological, personal. I wanted to get rid of the stupid dances, the idiotic costume parades, all the crap that had nothing to do with the story. The original production had cost over a million dollars and that was in 1960! But the story is really about just three people – people with Shakespearean-sized passions, sure, but at their core, real people with real feelings, real insecurities, and best of all, real contradictions. These are complicated, flawed, fascinating characters. I had played Arthur in high school and knew that there was more in that material than most people saw – or would admit they saw. I was convinced that for Camelot to really work, it had to be small and private. The audience had to feel like eavesdroppers, not spectators at a parade. I asked the three leads to make every scene personal and unbearably vulnerable, to rarely open themselves up physically to the audience (the usual practice in musicals), and above all, to let the show be unashamedly sexual and passionate. I’d like to think all these unusual – some said “radical” – ideas paid off, that our Camelot was not only different, but better. But my greatest joy was hearing audience members leaving the theatre each night, saying that they hadn’t remembered Camelot being that funny. Or sexy. Or sad. The biggest lesson I’ve learned with New Line is that the original production of a show isn’t always the best way to do it. In some cases, the authors were bound by convention, by finances, by audience expectations, by fear – and they didn’t always do their work justice. And sometimes it takes the distance of a few decades to see that.
– Scott Miller, director
I walked into the basement of the St. Marcus Theatre, not having a clue what to expect. Hey, I'm still pretty new to the theatre, and I had no concept of what Professional Non-Equity Theatre was. But I was prepared. I had my sheet music for “If Ever I Would Leave You” under my arm when a large – no, gigantic – man greeted me at the door. Intimidating first impression? Definitely. I filled out my audition sheet, and almost wet myself when I saw that there would be pay involved. Who knew a person could get paid for doing something this fun? Well, I got up there and sang my little baritone heart out, stone cold stiff with fright. The blond guy at the piano, who I gathered was the director, then tested my range and seemed pleasantly surprised at the depth of it, commenting that my range was the one he wished he had. I didn't know quite what to make of this, but stayed around to read anyway (but not dance… hmmm... in Camelot?). They asked me to read for Lancelot. Shocking, to say the least. After all, I was only seventeen. So, I put on my pseudo-French accent after asking if such a thing would be necessary, and went to work. I think the thing that threw me the most was that there was no Arthur to grovel to. Just me, on a bare stage, blind as a bat, on my knees towards the invisible king. I think the scariest part of that audition, though, was the thought that I might actually be cast as Lancelot. Fortunately, as the story goes, a fabulous baritone named Karl came along and snatched the part with one vocal chord tied around his back. I was so relieved to be a knight, I even offered to sing tenor (but that's a whole other chapter).
– Jesse Lawder, “Sir Sagramore”
For me, one of the funniest parts of the show was something the audiences were never aware of. It's at the end of the joust. Kevin Collier's character is killed, carried on stage and then brought back to life by Lancelot. It's a very emotional scene in the show. The funny part was watching Jerry, Walter, Jesse and Keith carry Kevin from the back of the theatre to the stage. Kevin is at least six feet twelve inches tall and weighs . . . a lot. Each night when they struggled to carry him on the stretcher to the stage, my mind would always go back to the night they dropped him on his head during rehearsal. Kevin wasn't too happy about being dropped. In fact, the last time I heard that much cursing from one human being was when my ex-wife was giving birth. Thank goodness Kevin wasn't hurt and there was no permanent damage to the stage.
– Steve Johnson, “King Pellinore”
My favorite memory of Camelot was a moment we had backstage. For the first weekend of the run, all the Lords and Ladies spent their downtime chatting in the green room together. For no known reason, by the second weekend, the women had begun to retreat to our dressing room and left the men in the green room alone. We prided ourselves on having plenty of time to make transitions upstairs through the sanctuary of the St. Marcus to cross over and enter through the back of the theatre. But one night, we were involved in our conversation and hearing a cue, suddenly realized we were in grave danger of missing our entrance at the back of the theatre. Well, the “Queens of the Manor” (and I do mean queens) were quite bitter about their ladies doing their own thing, so they fell into a laughing heap as the four of us burst open the dressing room door looking like a pack of flying nuns in our long Medieval ware and raced up the back stairs, tripping and falling on each other's clothes.
– Beck Hunter, “Morgan Le Fay, Lady Elaine”
I didn't think there was a spot for me in Camelot, but Scott told me about Nimué. He described her as an enchantress that sings this one beautiful song, which was enough reason for me to audition! Steve Johnson played Merlin and it was my job as Nimué to seduce him away. Steve was great to work with on and off stage. Our scene together was short but beautiful, and I enjoyed it very much. Much to my surprise, Joe Pollack complimented me in his review in Backstage, and Judith Newmark gave me a year-end Judy Award as one of the Best Supporting Actresses of the year. I appreciate the compliments very much, but I can't help chuckling about it because I was only onstage for about two minutes! Deborah, Ted, and Karl were terrific and this was their show, but we enjoyed watching and playing our parts in the story. It was always fun watching the invisible horses race towards each other in the jousts and “seeing” Lancelot's victories, especially the time they dropped Sir Dinadan (Kevin) while carrying him back to Arthur. Well, at least it was fun for us!
– Kimi Short, “Nimué”
The very first show I costumed for the New Line Theatre was Camelot. At that time their productions were in the basement of the St. Marcus on Russell Avenue. I remember my first reaction when I descended the steps and walked through the black hanging curtains to the theatre space: this is as low as I can get. The atmosphere was dark and close due to the low ceiling, soft lighting, and the pillars scattered throughout the seating area. However, throughout that first pre-production time and during the performances, I found out that the theatre company isn’t about the space [in which it performs], but the people who make up the company. We all joked about the size of the roaches in the green room (while I kept my feet off the floor), and the dressing rooms were cozy, not cramped. I actually felt comforted when I’d walk backstage by the Christmas lights and the hot, glowing boiler. But I found that the best part of it all was the genuine thanks and gratitude I received from the actors when I costumed them. They treated me and my costumes very well. Even though the company has had to change venues with the closing of the St. Marcus, the same camaraderie has continued. It’s such a warm feeling to get applause from the people I costume, for they know that I do it so they can be better in their roles, and that I do the best that I can do. What more could I ask for?
– Betsy Krausnick, costumer
New Line's production of Camelot was superb, provocative, delightful and yet so remarkably different from any other version I've ever seen of this show. As I sat in the audience that evening, I found it difficult to believe that my adult son, Scott Miller, was directing this highly sophisticated show. It seemed such a short time ago that Scott, my lanky young teenager, starred as the ill-fated King in his high school production of Camelot. My pride in his directing skills almost equaled those I experienced as I watched him perform so many years ago. Anyone who is a mother will understand my feelings ... the rest of you will just have to grin and bear it.
– Joan Zobel, mother of the director
Then there was the time when everyone got late night phone calls.
I had rehearsal one night, around January or February, and my ex-girlfriend was in town from school. She and I were good friends still, and we decided to go out for coffee or something after I got out of rehearsal. So, as I got out, she picked me up and off we went on our way to a fun night. It was, of course, a school night, and I did stay out quite late. I got home around two to find my father and his fiancée not in sight. Well, the way the story goes, they woke up to my empty bed, and happened to find my Camelot cast list. They then proceeded to make calls to at least three people (including the directors, Scott and Alison) wondering if we were still in rehearsal and if they had any idea where I might be. Seeing as how rehearsal got out at ten and it was now two, no one really had much to say on that subject. Needless to say, I had a lot of explaining to do next rehearsal.
– Jesse Lawder, “Sir Sagramore”
In Act II of Camelot, Sarah, Beck, Kimi, and I were offstage a lot (which is generally the case for any woman in Camelot who isn't Guenevere). On one particular night, we apparently had been listening to the same radio station on the way to the theatre, for we all had The Bangles' version of “Hazy Shade of Winter” in our heads. Very softly, almost in a whisper, we sang it and split into the harmonies as though we had rehearsed it for months. We decided we'd make a great girl band. And we ate a lot of grapefruit. In case you were wondering what we did for that hour backstage before the finale....
– Johanna Schloss, “Lady Sybil”