As the immediate successor of My Fair Lady -- and with so many of the collaborators who had made My Fair Lady an unforgettable stage experience -- a good deal was expected of Camelot when it arrived on Broadway. It achieved the unprecedented advance sales of three and a half million dollars, and forthwith was sold to the motion pictures for three million dollars more. But while Camelot was no My Fair Lady -- and thus aroused a good measure of disappointment among the critics -- it was nevertheless a musical play with many moments of enchantment and with some of the most handsomely mounted sets Broadway had seen in many a year.
Le mariage arrangé entre le Roi Arthur et Guenièvre se transforme en véritable romance. Le couple s’épaule alors pour organiser l’union du royaume et établir des règles de conduite pour une chevalerie plus civilisée. Mais le regroupement d’homme d’exception amène le fier Lancelot Du Lac à la table ronde du château de Camelot…Synopsis complet
It is based on the King Arthur legend as adapted from the T. H. White tetralogy novel The Once and Future King.
In 1959, Alan Jay Lerner and Moss Hart decided to adapt T. H. White's The Once and Future King as their next project. As discussed in Lerner's 1978 book, The Street Where I Live, Frederick Loewe, who had no interest in the project, agreed to write music, with the understanding that if things went badly, it would be his last score. After the tremendous success of My Fair Lady, expectations were high for a new Lerner and Loewe musical. However, the show's production met several obstacles. Lerner's wife left him during the writing process, causing him to seek medical attention and delaying the production. When Camelot began rehearsals, it still needed considerable work. However, the producers were able to secure a strong cast including Julie Andrews, Richard Burton and Roddy McDowall, as well as Robert Goulet in his first Broadway role. John Cullum also made his Broadway debut as Sir Dinadan; Bruce Yarnell was Sir Lionel. Cullum later replaced McDowall, and William Squire replaced Burton. Other replacements included Patricia Bredin, Kathryn Grayson and Janet Pavek for Andrews.
The show's first tryout was in Toronto, at the O'Keefe Centre in 1960. The curtain came down at twenty minutes to one in the morning; Lerner later noted that "Only Tristan and Isolde equaled it as a bladder endurance contest." The morning papers, though kind, hinted that the show needed much work in order to succeed. Lerner was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer and had to withdraw from preparations for a time. Hart then suffered a heart attack, and Lerner stepped in as temporary director for the rest of the out-of-town run at the behest of Kitty Carlisle Hart. Camelot then moved to Boston, nearly an hour and a half shorter, but still running very long. The production team tried to find another director, even phoning Jose Ferrer, who could not undertake the job. Lerner and Loewe disagreed on how to proceed with the show, as Loewe did not want to make any major changes without Hart's guidance. Lerner wrote: "God knows what would have happened had it not been for Richard Burton." Accepting cuts and changes, he radiated a "faith and geniality" and calmed the fears of the cast. Guenevere's song "Before I Gaze at You Again" was given to Andrews at the last minute before the first New York preview, which provoked her famous quote, "Of course darling, but do try to get it to me the night before." After the show opened on Broadway, Hart was released from the hospital, and he and Lerner began cutting the play even further. Two songs, "Then You May Take Me To the Fair" and "Fie on Goodness," were cut a few months into the run (though they remain on the cast album).
The advance sale for the show was the largest in Broadway history. The New York critics' reviews of the original production were mixed. Fortunately for the show, Ed Sullivan approached Lerner and Loewe to create a segment for his television variety program, celebrating the fifth anniversary of My Fair Lady. They decided to do very little from their previous hit and instead to perform four highlights from Camelot. The show stimulated ticket sales, and Camelot achieved an unprecedented advance sale of three and a half million dollars. It was also publicized, just after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (a classmate of Lerner at Harvard), that the show's original cast recording had been favorite bedtime listening in the White House, and that Kennedy's favorite lines were in the final number (in which Arthur knights a young boy and tells him to pass on the story of Camelot to future generations):
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.
Since then, Camelot has been associated with the Kennedy Administration.
The obstacles encountered in producing Camelot were hard on the creative partnership of Lerner and Loewe, and the show turned out to be one of their last collaborations (although they did work together to adapt their 1958 movie "Gigi" to the stage in 1973, and collaborated again the following year on the movie musical "The Little Prince). Camelot was Hart's last Broadway show. He died of a heart attack in Palm Springs, California on December 20, 1961.
1960 - Broadway
Camelot opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on December 3, 1960 and closed on January 5, 1963 after 873 performances and 2 previews. Directed by Moss Hart, the choreography was by Hanya Holm, scenic design by Oliver Smith, costume design by Adrian (who worked on the designs prior to his death in September 1959) and Tony Duquette, and lighting design by Feder.
It won four Tony Awards. The original cast album was America's top-selling LP for 60 weeks.
A two-year U.S. tour followed the Broadway closing, starring Kathryn Grayson and William Squire, who was succeeded by Louis Hayward. There was also a 1963–64 bus-and-truck tour starring Biff McGuire as Arthur, Jeannie Carson as Guenevere, and Sean Garrison as Lancelot. Yet another company toured with the show in 1964, starring Howard Keel as Arthur, Constance Towers as Guenevere, and Bob Holiday as Lancelot. An Australian production opened in Adelaide in October 1963 produced by the J. C. Williamson company and ran for two years.
1964 - London
The London production opened in August 1964 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and featured Laurence Harvey as Arthur, Elizabeth Larner as Guenevere and Barry Kent as Lancelot. It played for 518 performances. The film version was made in 1967 starring Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave.
Richard Burton reprised his role as Arthur in a revival that ran from July 8, 1980 to August 23, 1980 at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. Christine Ebersole played Guenevere, and Richard Muenz was Lancelot.
The show was revived on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater from November 15, 1981 to January 2, 1982, and broadcast on HBO a year later, starring Richard Harris as Arthur, Meg Bussert as Guenevere, and Muenz as Lancelot. Harris, who had starred in the film, and Muenz also took the show on tour nationwide. Another Broadway revival ran from June 21, 1993 to August 7, 1993 for 56 performances at the George Gershwin Theatre, with Goulet now cast in the role of Arthur. Goulet reprised this role at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre in 1993.
An 18-month U.S. tour, starring Michael York as Arthur, Rachel York (no relation) as Guenevere, and James Barbour as Lancelot, began on January 9, 2007 and ended in April 2008. Alan Jay Lerner's son, Michael Lerner, contributed changes to the libretto, and Glenn Casale directed. From June 27–30, 2007, the tour played at Toronto's Hummingbird Centre, where the musical had premiered in 1960. While the 2007 Michael York tour was performing across the U.S., Candlewood International ran a separate, largely non-equity national tour that played to cities not visited by the union tour. The Morgan Le Fey sub-plot was removed. Jeff Buchsbaum directed and Paula Sloan choreographed a cast headed by Robert Brown as Arthur, Matthew Posner as Lancelot, Mollie Vogt-Welch as Guenevere and Heather Stricker as Lady Catherine.
From May 7 to May 10, 2008, the New York Philharmonic presented five semi-staged concerts of Camelot directed by Lonny Price and produced by Thomas Z. Shepard and starring Gabriel Byrne as King Arthur, Marin Mazzie as Guenevere, and Nathan Gunn as Lancelot. It featured Christopher Lloyd as Pellinore, Marc Kudisch as Lionel, Bobby Steggert as Mordred, Will Swenson as Sagramore, Christopher Sieber as Dinadan and Fran Drescher as Morgan le Fey. The May 8 performance was broadcast nationally on Live from Lincoln Center on PBS.
"Overture" – Instrumental
"The March [Parade]" – Instrumental
"I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight" – Arthur
"The Simple Joys of Maidenhood" – Guenevere
"Camelot" – Arthur
"Camelot (reprise)" – Arthur, Guenevere
"Follow Me" – Nimue
"C'est Moi" – Lancelot
"The Lusty Month of May" – Guenevere, Ensemble
"Then You May Take Me To the Fair" – Guenevere, Sir Lionel, Sir Sagramore, Sir Dinadan
"How To Handle a Woman" – Arthur
"The Jousts" – Arthur, Guenevere, Ensemble
"Before I Gaze at You Again" – Guenevere
"If Ever I Would Leave You" – Lancelot
"The Seven Deadly Virtues" – Mordred
"What Do the Simple Folk Do?" – Arthur, Guenevere
"Fie on Goodness!" – Mordred, Knights
"I Loved You Once In Silence" – Guenevere
"Guenevere" – Ensemble
"Camelot (reprise)" – King Arthur
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