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The Broadway Musical "Camelot" Essay

1147 words - 5 pages

CamelotCamelot first came to life on the Broadway stage in 1960, where it was an immediate success. Penned by the celebrated team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, who had previously collaborated on the likes of Brigadoon, Gigi, and My Fair Lady. Camelot didn't go before the cameras until 1965, and, by the time filming was underway, none of the original Broadway trio was involved in the production. Richard Harris had replaced Richard Burton as King Arthur. Vanessa Redgrave had shouldered aside Julie Andrews as Guenevere. And, as Lancelot, the incomprehensible choice was made to supplant Robert Goulet with Franco Nero. Two years later, Camelot opened to much fanfare and mixed reviews.Story-wise, the movie does not tackle the entire Vulgate Cycle - an impossible feat for any film of reasonable length to attempt. Based on T.H. White's The Once and Future King, Camelot opens with the meeting of King Arthur and Guenevere, and ends with their parting and the sundering of the Round Table. In between, the film covers many of the details that aficionados have come to cherish: Arthur's grand and noble ambitions for a better England, Lancelot and Guenevere's tragic affair, and Mordred's attempts to destroy Camelot. Merlin makes a few cameos in visions and memories and Excalibur can be glimpsed on more than one occasion, but there are no signs of Morgana, Sir Galahad, or the Holy Grail.In bringing his play to the screen, Lerner opted to make some changes. He opened up the story, allowing more action than would be permitted in a theater-bound production. He also altered the overall tone. On stage, Camelot was a lighthearted affair, but the movie has a more somber tenor. In fact, the most overtly comical scene in the motion picture is the slapstick first encounter between Arthur and Lancelot. The film retains many, although not all, of the musical numbers. There are a dozen in all, including rousing versions of "Camelot", "The Lusty Month of May", and "What Do The Simple Folk Do?" as well as a beautiful rendition of the ballad "If Ever I Should Leave You".There are times when musical/comedy elements and the darker, serious drama of the love triangle war with each other. This is one of the great romantic tragedies of all time, and the film falls short of doing it justice. The chemistry is there between Arthur and Guenevere. In fact, their first meeting, when Guenevere is unaware of Arthur's identity, is one of Camelot's most successful sequences, featuring the full rendition of "Camelot" and some sparkling dialogue. The Lancelot/Guenevere romance, however, lacks any semblance of heat or fire. At best, it can be characterized as having a few feeble wisps of smoke.Replacing Richard Burton, who was supposedly unavailable, is Richard Harris. Despite being too young to play Arthur, in my opinion Harris does a pretty good job, and his voice is strong enough that he didn't require any dubbing. His performance italicizes the tragedy of the Guenevere/Lancelot...

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