The theater season has officially begun in our little cultural sweatbox, and that means more of the musicals have live orchestras again. This is great news, and it makes Theater Works' current production of Camelot just that much less dreary.
The score has great, popular, memorable songs that audience members cheerfully sing along with, even during the overture. The plot, based on several legends that've been Frankensteined together through centuries of pseudo-history and literary movements, is an illogical outrage. The romance is adulterous, overblown, and cheesy. But this show definitely does skirt a few of the pitfalls, and I'll admit it has its moments. Moments that are needles in a three-hour, glute-numbing haystack, but still.
Be glad you aren't medieval royalty. The burdens seemed weirdly onerous to me even when I was just an itty-bitty cynic in pigtails watching the 1967 film version of Camelot, and, looking at it now, I feel that the administration in question contains more lapses in integrity than Rod Blagojevich's.
You know how Arthur and the Round Table are supposed to have cleaned up a nasty, violent, inequitable society and instituted the rule of law, with knights acting more like proto-Robocops instead of just pounding on each other all the time? This "improvement" results, in Lerner and Loewe's version of the tale, in the king needing to order his beloved and faithful queen burned at the stake because his scheming bastard son, Mordred (played by Bo Allen, the most dynamic actor and dancer in the cast), arranged for her to be discovered alone in her bedroom with a friend she'd just agreed not to sleep with. Baby steps, I guess . . .
Just in time, cooler heads prevail, with Guenevere's Entebbe-style rescue causing another big, dumb war. The End. But "don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot for one brief, shining moment that was known as Camelot." Brief, my ass. (See above.)
But despite zombie-like energy and crappy dancing throughout (to be fair, those period costumes, some of which are pretty awesome-looking in this case, are a bear to caper about in), everyone sings nicely, and actor Ted Raymond, whose bio says he played Jim Carrey's next-door neighbor in The Truman Show, is very sharp and funny as Arthur's old friend Pellinore.
Camelot continues through Sunday, September 13, at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, 8355 West Peoria Avenue in Peoria. Tickets are $15 to $36; buy them here or call 623-815-7930.