Mordred (Cole Emarine) and the three knights (Left to right) Lionel (Eric Heine), Sagramore (Hugh Butterfield), and Dinadan (Stephen Charles Turner)
Mordred (Cole Emarine) and the three knights
(Left to right) Lionel (Eric Heine), Sagramore (Hugh Butterfield),
and Dinadan (Stephen Charles Turner)
Photo: RDG Photography
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

These words, intoned by King Arthur in the last scene, were the favorite passage in the musical for President John F. Kennedy, whose administration became identified with the story. This newly imagined production (adapted by Emmy Award winner David Lee), now running at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, is certainly just as the king describes it—a bright light in an otherwise dark time.

Bob Hoppe as King Arthur
Bob Hoppe as King Arthur
Photo: RDG Photography
The love triangle between Arthur (Bob Hoppe), Guenevere (Susanna Ballenski Houdesheldt), and Lancelot (Scott Hurst, Jr.) is performed to perfection. Hoppe's rich voice underscores Arthur's gravity, yet he freely draws on the king's boyish wonderment, particularly when recalling Merlin's advice and magic. Arthur's sense of humor shines in Hoppe's witty rendition of "I Wonder What The King Is Doing Tonight?"

Guinevere also has issues with the arranged marriage. She is younger than Arthur and feels her youth is being cut short. Houdesheldt's crystalline soprano sparkles in Guinevere's sweet pleadings to her patron saint, "Simple Joys of Maidenhood," as Arthur watches unbeknownst to her, until he falls out of the tree. Pretending to be a commoner, he extolls the sublime qualities of Camelot in the title song. Guinevere is quite taken, and after Arthur's attendants arrive and he is revealed as the king, their love blossoms.

Five years into the storybook idyll, Arthur conceives of a new kind of knight and a kingdom based on the rule of law, not "might makes right"—the Knights of the Roundtable—and word goes out near and far of this initiative, bringing the brash Lancelot to Camelot, where he praises his own virtue and skills in "C'est Moi." Hurst fully emobodies the bold braggadocio of the self-styled French Prometheus, delivering a powerful and full-range rendition of this grand declaration.

Susanna Ballenski Houdesheldt as Guenevere and Scott Hurst, Jr. as Lancelot
Susanna Ballenski Houdesheldt
as Guenevere
and Scott Hurst, Jr. as Lancelot
Photo: RDG Photography
Guinevere dislikes Lancelot's self-aggrandizing style and organizes a tournament in which her three favorite knights—Sir Dinadan (Stephan Charles Turner), Sir Sagramore (Hugh Butterfield), and the burly Sir Lionel (Eric Heine)—challenge Lancelot to a joust, where they pledge to dismantle him, in "Then You May Take Me to the Fair"; but, when the Frenchman defeats all three and seemingly brings one back to life, much to everyone's astonishment and delight, Guinevere begins to fall in love with him. Both she and Lancelot wrestle with their feelings, leading to two beautiful solos, Houdesheldt's stirring "Before I Gaze at You Again" and Hurst's heartfelt "If Ever I Would Leave You."

Turner, Butterfield, and Heine shine as the Queen's favorites, ready to defend her honor in battle, dance, and song; but, when Guinevere and Lancelot start making time, they are easily manipulated by Mordred (Cole Emarine), Arthur's son from a youthful affair, who seeks to destroy Camelot as revenge. Emarine embraces Mordred's sinister nature, delivering a tart and prickly "The Seven Deadly Virtues," leading the errant knights to abandon the principles of the Round Table in "Fie On Goodness."

Guinevere and Lancelot are arrested for treason, and Arthur, believing in the rule of law, is forced to condemn Guinevere to burn at the stake; but, Lancelot, who has escaped, rescues her to Arthur's relief, as the chorus narrates the events in "Guenevere." All three meet one last time, in the woods, and part with bittersweet respect. Arthur is left to ponder the legacy of Camelot in "Finale Ultimo."

Director Pat Payne, the nine actors and four-person orchestra, and Candlelight management deserve a big round of applause for taking a variety of steps to meet current state restrictions, including reduction of audience size, increased distancing between patrons, additional cleaning and sanitizing in all areas, as well as a reduction of cast size.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's presentation of Camelot, by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe, based on the King Arthur legend as adapted from T. H. White's 1958 novel The Once and Future King, and winner of four Tony Awards (1961), runs through October 25th. Tickets start at $55.50, which includes dinner and the show. Purchase tickets by calling Candlelight’s box office (970-744-3747) Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, 12 – 5 p.m., or online, 24/7, at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is located at 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO 80534, just off I-25 between Berthoud and Loveland.

Bob Bows

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