ROSWELL, Ga. – If you want to do some happily ever-aftering, then there is no better spot to be than the Roswell Cultural Arts Center for Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s rousing season finale, Learner and Lowe’s “Camelot.”
King Arthur, his fair Guenevere, steadfast Sir Lancelot and everyone’s favorite magician, Merlin, return with some of the most memorable songs (“If Ever I Would Leave You,” “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” and the irrepressible “Camelot.”)
Directed by Artistic Director Robert Farley, “Camelot” has just about every human quality one could hope to conjure – love, jealousy, loyalty, betrayal, humor, honor, hate and friendship.
The Tony Award-winning book and lyrics by Alan J. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe are as fresh today as in the debut of “Camelot” in 1960.
Farley seems to get his pick of Atlanta actors with Bryant Smith (Arthur), Jennifer Acker (Guenevere) and Chris Kayser (Merlin) heading up a top-notch cast. Smith most recently wowed Atlanta audiences as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” and this is first production for Kayser after a 20-year stint in the Alliance Theater.
In addition to quality, “Camelot” tops last year’s “Hello Dolly” in terms of size.
But Farley says it has been a labor of love.
“It’s just been sheer joy. It’s such a great story. There hasn’t been such a story written quite like it for the American theater or the Broadway stage – just where it starts out and where it ends up with its message of hope,” Farley said.
Revisiting the music of “Camelot” was the big surprise for Farley.
“There’s not a clunker in the bunch,” he said.
As a Cold War child growing up in the Kennedy administration and the way his administration became linked to this play (Kennedy often played the cast record at night), the story still speaks to him.
“The story as it lays out poses a question to the audience, and that’s something I always like to ask in the theater,” Farley said. “And that is, does the country need that spirit of a new ‘Camelot’ again?
“And there is a whole generation that has not heard this music,” he said.
For many years, Farley didn’t even have “Camelot” on the radar screen, but doing something on the scale of “Dolly” gave him the courage to take it on.
“I learned so much from doing that show – how GET can handle similar, more ambitious projects,” he said.
“Camelot” takes the audience on quite a ride as well. It begins lightly and flirtatiously with a lot of fun. The second act looks at the relationships. Suddenly, not only are those threatened, but the entire country.
“There’s not a human trait that is left out,” he said.
The show was so good, it was too good. There were huge problems with the length of the play, so much so that two of the best songs, “Fie on Goodness,” and Take Me to the Fayre,” were excised for most of the Broadway run.
Like most productions today, Farley has revived them, but not without lengthening the play, he promised.
“I think people are going to have a wonderful time,” he said.
What Farley has down is how to “deconstruct” the play down to its humanity. He doesn’t feel the need to show the roundtable to create its presence in the audience’s mind – although he is quite pleased with the action sequences.
“The challenge was telling an epic story on a scale to fit our stage. But we get a lot of out of our cast. I call it the GET Wall of Sound,” he said.
“But as I said, we boil the story down to its humanity. And that is enough.”
IF YOU GO:
Runs April 10-27
Roswell Cultural Arts Center
950 Forrest St., Roswell
Tickets: $28-$39 – Call 770-641-1260 or go to www.get.org.