My experiences with "Camelot" are not pleasant ones so I had planned to skip the San Francisco Playhouse production.
But then I read it had the same team - and several actors - from their "My Fair Lady" and remembered how they brought that old tired show back from the grave.
Add Tony winning actor Wilson Jermaine Heredia, and I am intrigued.
Nor was I disappointed.
From the moment one walks in to the theatre you're spellbound. The regal set looked so authentic, I wanted to water the grass.
And the production was more than just a sexy set that took you back to King Arthur's court and all the fodder that goes with his story of Excalibur. I have forgotten how much a love story "Camelot" is, which let's Arthur's round table take a back seat to the blossoming love of Guenevere and Sir Lancelot right under King Arthur's nose. "Camelot" features one of the most beautiful love songs ever featured in a musical, "If Ever I Would Leave You." It's done here in a tender, not-overly-dramatic arrangement by Tony winner Heredia..
A lot of audience may be here for Heredia. Perhaps people can't get to Broadway as often as they like and this is one of the rare chances to see a Tony winner in a more intimate theatre setting. And with Heredia, they will not be disappointed. He shows a great range as an actor as his Tony was for playing a crossdresser in "Rent." But here he's as macho and manly as you can be and convincing every minute.
Heredia is well matched on stage by what I will now call the Lunt & Fontanne of our time: Johnny Moreno and Monique Hafen. They captivated me in "My Fair Lady" and continue to reign in this production. They are poetry in motion when they are on the stage and from now on, when I see they are associated with a show, I will go. But, hey SF Playhouse founders Bill English and Susi Damilano, I see Moreno, Hafen and Heredia as the Phantom, Christine and Raoul, so check to see if the rights are available to put on "Phantom of the Opera" in 2015. Seeing your set designer Nina Ball's amazing work, I can certainly see the creative way you can work "Phantom" into an intimate show that can highlight your Lunt & Fontanne!
Not to put it too high on a pedestal, I do think the costumes, at times, were a bit under whelming (especially the fur that looks like from my grandma's closet). Not to be picky, but when you're offered perfection, you need to try to help the team step up their game. But for the most part, I will just think this is due to budget constraints.
And PLEASE - don't do what I did. I grew up watching "Camelot" the movie. Never do that. It is awful and it is the reason I almost skipped this production. It features actors who can't/don't sing. Really. Vanessa Redgrave, singer? Richard Harris didn't even sing his one hit - he talked it - "MacArthur Park."
So skip the movie and see the amazing show which runs through Sept. 21 at SF Playhouse at 450 Post Street. Get tickets and more information at www.sfplayhouse.org.