Romance and magic will be in the spotlight this holiday season, as the Walnut Theatre in Philadelophia presents a sparkling new production of the Broadway musical, Camelot. This classic Lerner and Loewe musical whisks the audience back to the glorious, mystical days of King Arthur, Lady Guenevere and the Knights of the Round Table.
Director Charles Abbott explained his concept for the upcoming production, which runs Nov. 16 through Jan. 5: "I plan to tell a classic story, almost a Shakespearean tale, with a little of Disney World, storybook charm for the magical moments," he said. "It's a beautiful romance with moments of mysticism!"
The veteran director of Walnut holiday shows, including The Wizard of Oz and Mame, said the tale of Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot is "the stuff of which legends are made." According to Abbott, there are two factors that contribute to Camelot's timeless appeal: Most obvious is Camelot's romantic aspect. The sheer romance of this musical can take your breath away. The characters are in love with each other for all the right reasons, Abbott said.
"In the case of Lance and Guenevere, they attempt to deny their love because it is the correct thing to do, but their emotions get in the way."
The second, perhaps surprising, aspect of Camelot's appeal is political in nature. "Our judicial system and government have their roots in Arthur's ideals of justice and honor," Abbott said. "We've abandoned the 'eye for an eye' philosophy for honesty and logic." Camelot was the final Broadway collaboration for Alan Jay Lerner (1918-86) and Frederick Loewe (1904-88).
Loewe was gaining a reputation as a popular song writer in 1942 when he heard of Lerner's talent for lyrics. Loewe met Lerner at the Lamb's Club in New York that year and asked if he was interested in working with him. Lerner said yes, and thus began a partnership that would last 18 years.
Their first collaboration was The Life of the Party, a musical version of a 1920s comedy. It was slated for a New York engagement but closed during a Detroit try-out. Success eluded them again in 1943, with the failure of the Broadway show What's Up.
Undaunted, the two continued to work together. Their off-beat musical comedy The Day Before Spring ran for 176 performances in 1945. This won them a small group of fans who felt Lerner and Loewe were the only serious competition for Rodgers and Hammerstein. In 1947, the romantic fantasy Brigadoon established their reputation, winning the New York Critics Circle Award as Best Musical.
Lerner interrupted the partnership in 1948 to pen the book and lyrics for Kurt Weill's Love Life, which enjoyed a 30-week Broadway run. Hollywood filmmakers commissioned him to write the libretto for An American in Paris, the first film musical to win an Oscar. After contributing to the success of the films Royal Wedding and Brigadoon, Lerner rejoined Loewe in 1951 to write the musical Paint Your Wagon.
In 1956, the duo wrote the blockbuster My Fair Lady; two years later, the film musical Gigi, winner of nine Oscars. And in 1960, they created Camelot, their last triumph, which ran on Broadway for over two years.
Tickets for the Walnut's production of Camelot are now on sale. Call (215) 574-3550, ext. 4, 10 AM to 10 PM. daily for tickets.
-- By Maria E. Sticco