The Barter Blog
See Lerner & Leowe's Camelot at Barter Theatre
March 05, 2019
A Blog by Dawn McAlexander
When I worked in radio, I used to go to Barter Theatre pretty often. I remember seeing their production of Of Mice and Men a few years ago, which is one of my all time favorite books, and it was phenomenal. So, I was excited to finally get back there this weekend, and to take someone who had never been to Barter Theatre before, to see Camelot.
Barter Theatre, in Abingdon, Virginia, is the state theater of Virginia. Opening in 1933, it is the nation's longest running professional theater and has it's own in house theater group, meaning the actors get year-long contracts, and can concentrate on their art instead of looking immediately for their next job. In the midst of the Great Depression, people could attend plays at Barter Theatre by bartering, or trading goods, equivalent to the ticket price.
Many well-known stars of stage, screen and television have performed early in their careers at Barter, including: Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Hume Cronyn, Gary Collins, Frances Fisher, Larry Linville, John Glover, Jim Varney, and Wayne Knight. Will Bigham, the 2007 winner of "On The Lot," acted at Barter Theatre for several years.
Although I have heard of Camelot, I was unfamiliar with the story. However, Camelot seems to be the theme for me lately given my King Arthur race medal that I recently won. I might as well stick with it. :) My new fella, Jason, went with me and he was familiar with the story of Camelot. Since I was not, and assume some of you might not be as well, I will tell you a little about the plot line without giving away any real spoilers.
Camelot is the story of an idealistic view of the world. King Arthur envisions things how he feels they should be and, because of this, is able to find the good in most people. He has a great empathy for others and is able to see their points of view, both figuratively and literally [when Merlin changes him into other beings so he can share their experiences]. But King Arthur is no fool looking at the world through rose colored glasses. He takes active steps to create this better world he has in his mind, including enacting a democratic government, trying to rule with understanding and fairness.
But dreaming of a fair justice system and then deciding whether to use that same justice system to decide the fate of an adulterous wife are two very different things. This is the exact scenario that King Arthur is faced with when his beloved falls in love with Sir Lancelot, one of his entrusted Knights of the Round Table.
My absolute favorite part of the musical was Guenevere's [Samantha Bruce] singing voice. She has a very operatic and angelic voice, much like that of one of the princesses from a classic Disney movie. She sounds absolutely breathtaking. I also really enjoyed Mordred [Rusty Allen]. The "villain" of the play is a complicated character. He tests King Arthur's innate value system by bringing up many potential problems. King Arthur's view, though idealistic, is also a little naive on some levels, and Mordred points out these holes and raises valid points. Life isn't as black and white as King Arthur can often see it. I loved Rusty Allen's complicated and layered portrayal of Mordred.
Camelot is also the story of good conquering all. It made me think of Carrie Underwood's "Love Wins" because, even though King Arthur was faced with a horrible decision, a situation that he could have either handled with great wrath and revenge or with kindness and compassion, he did not run from it. He made decisions that he felt were in the best interest of his kingdom while also allowing himself to sleep at night. Though any one of us could easily have been, given similar circumstances, King Arthur was never a broken man filled with hate and contempt.