ALBANY — Those of us of a certain age once wore out the vinyl record grooves of certain Broadway hits: “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Music Man” and Lerner & Loewe’s 1960 “Camelot.” If you want to revisit a teenaged musical passion, get to Cap Rep’s freshly minted production, where you can, with adult ears, also appreciate the story surrounding these memorable tunes.
Freshly minted? Absolutely. Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill has taken a page from director John Doyle’s playbook, calling for actors to be the show’s musicians, or the musicians to be the show’s actors, so seamless are the transitions. The technique is perfect for Cap Rep’s intimate stage.
Amanda McDowell’s program notes cite the origins of this courtly tale. The story (told in flashback fashion) concerns King Arthur (Kevin McGuire) and Queen Guenevere (Leenya Rideout).
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through Dec. 24
HOW MUCH: $65-$25
MORE INFO: 445.7469, capitalrep.org
Under the guidance of Merlyn the Magician (Martin Van Treuren, who’s even better later as Pellinore), the child Arthur was often transformed into animals, and it was during his experience as a hawk when he realized that — as seen from above — the earth is not divided into territories. So develops his philosophy that might does not make right, that justice and brotherhood — not war — should prevail, in the democratic shape of the Round Table.
To the English court comes Frenchman Lancelot (Oliver Thornton), conceited, attractive and charmed. Soon he becomes Arthur’s right-hand man in affairs of state and competition in affairs of the heart. Act II introduces the malevolent Mordred (Michael Hicks, having fun), Arthur’s bastard son, who exposes the trio’s troubles, ultimately leaving Arthur to mourn, albeit with some optimism, the “brief, shining moment” of Camelot.
Backed by a tech staff that brilliantly creates real-world and other-worldly effects; by the hard-working musical director Josh D. Smith, whose clever arrangements showcase the multi-talented cast; and inventive choreographer Freddy Ramirez, Mancinelli-Cahill beautifully paces the show.
Ensemble numbers, like “The Lusty Month of May” and “Take Me to the Fair,” pulse with humor and joy. Ironic songs about class — “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight” and What Do the Simple Folk Do?” — benefit from the spot-on diction of McGuire and Rideout. And introspective tunes, like “How to Handle a Woman,” “Before I Gaze at You Again” and “I Loved You Once in Silence,” appropriately take their time to unfold.
Thornton’s self-absorbed “C’est Moi” is a hoot, and “If Ever I Would Leave You” soars.
Rideout’s portrait of a feisty young royal, an intelligent queen, and a bewildered paramour is a study in superb acting, acting that is further enhanced by her extraordinary musicianship as a string player and singer.
Kevin McGuire’s Cap Rep resume grows, with a finely shaded depiction of a man who’d rather be a rabbit or a boy in a tree, but who finally accepts the mantle of leadership. His monologues are moving, and his subtle shifts from speaking to singing reveal a man in search of understanding.
One performance is already sold out, and others have but a few tickets. Buy now.
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