RED BANK: ONE MORE SHINING MOMENT

Camelot_press_photo_2The eight-actor company of CAMELOT — augmented by a heads-on-a-stick ensemble — spend a thrilling day at The Jousts, in the re-imagined musical classic that continues on stage at Two River Theater. (Photo by T.C. Erickson)

It’s a shining kingdom of law and virtue that boasts a population of just eight humans — and only one woman in town, at that. But if the Two River Theater Company production of Camelot seems to be missing a few of its usual fixtures — the dour middle-aged actors, the cardboard castle walls, the pointy hats — what stands revealed at its heart is one of the true evergreen musicals of its (late 1950s/ early 1960s) era, with one of the most sharply delineated triangles in stage history, and a memorably introspective score by the Lerner and Loewe team that previously brought the world My Fair Lady.

Directed here by the Emmy winning sitcom impresario David Lee (Frasier, Wings), this is a Camelot the likes of which you may not immediately recognize — one that dispenses with several of the familiar characters (including Merlin), and which paints over the memory of Richard Harris and other brooding King Arthurs with a fresh-faced cast of young pros that take the story back to basics, against a functionally spare multi-level staging that sometimes substitutes pantomime for pageantry (and, in the percussively choreographed opening moments, a healthy bit of STOMP in place of pomp).

Read More »

RED BANK: A ONCE AND FUTURE CLASSIC

David Lee HRHFRASIER co-creator David Lee (left) returns to Red Bank to direct a young cast of pros (including Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, right) in the Two River Theater Company production of CAMELOT. 

Even as Red Bank’s own Phoenix Productions offers up a supremely silly take on the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table — courtesy of Monty Python’s Spamalot — the professionals at Two River Theater are getting serious about “The Once and Future King,”   beginning with Saturday’s first preview performance of Camelot.

The 1960 golden-age musical from the songwriting team of Lerner and Loewe — a Broadway costume classic that originally starred Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, Roddy McDowall and Robert Goulet — is already an unorthodox choice for the Two River team led by John Dias and Michael Hurst. But a closer look reveals a production that loses the brooding middle-aged actors in favor of a dynamic young ensemble of just eight players — even as it preserves the award winning score that gave the world “How to Handle a Woman” and “If Ever I Would Leave You.”

Directing the show that opens on Friday, November 21 and runs through December 14 is David Lee, the Emmy winning sitcom impresario (Frasier, Wings) whose previous Two River outing was the celebrated Present Laughter from two seasons back (he also re-teamed with some of the original Frasier cast for a fundraiser presentation on the Red Bank stage). He’s working with an awesomely experienced cast that includes Oliver Thornton, a young veteran of London’s West End (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rent) who’s making his American stage debut as Arthur — plus Nicholas Rodriguez (Disney’s Tarzan) as Lancelot, and (as the man-you-love-to-hate Mordred) Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, who shared the Broadway stage with Angela Lansbury and Elaine Stritch in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Tony nominee Steve Orich (Jersey Boys) directs a live ensemble of seven musicians.

The Drama Desk at redbankgreen spoke to David Lee about the pros and cons of parades, pageantry and pointy hats. Read on…

Read More »