Brief, shining moment stays in Arvada as ‘Camelot’ gets extended run

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One thinks of kings and castles, but Arvada’s remarkable set designer, Brian Malgrave, sets that castle at a dreamy distance and places the action in the surrounding landscape, with gnarly trees and rocks, where it may be a bit cold and damp.

Myths about the idealistic King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have accumulated for a thousand years, and there are numerous Arthur-related locations to attract the history-oriented traveler today. Think of “Camelot” as armchair travel.

In 1958, well-loved American writer T. H. White published his charming version, “The Once and Future King,” which a friend recommended to famous librettist Alan Jay Lerner as a possible next show. Lerner connected with producer Moss Hart and they convinced composer Frederick Loewe to write a score. “Camelot” opened in 1960, running much too long, but was cut enough to succeed on Broadway and become associated with the Kennedy administration.

At three hours, it is still too long in the beautifully staged Arvada Center production, but stellar voices, a lovely score, nice choreography and a fine young cast carry the familiar story well.

Arthur (David Bryant Johnson), Lancelot (Glenn Seven Allen) and Lady Guenevere (Melissa Mitchell) each carry a personal story into the scene, as do many other characters, such as nasty Scottish Mordred (Aaron M. Davidson) and genial Pellinore (William Thomas Evans, who also begins the legend as the wizard Merlin). Another magical personage is Megan Van De Hay’s Morgan Le Fey, who lives inside invisible walls in the forest.

Costumes are colorful, but not over-the-top-detailed and elegant as they sometimes are designed for this musical. Director Rod A. Lansberry is quoted in the program as not wanting costumes and set to distract from these solid, interesting characters.

T.H. White’s delightful sense of humor surfaces regularly as characters interact and interweave plot elements in a legend that is part of our cultural fabric. It’s easy to understand why this musical is so popular after more than 50 years onstage.

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