BY PETE HICKS
The lights dim, the orchestra begins to play and the Great Hall in Holloway is transformed into a time machine that transports those inside it back to a young England.
The Salisbury University Theatre program’s Camelot, directed by T. Paul Pfeiffer, is an entertaining mix of historical myth and relatable comedy that makes the musical a show that all viewers can enjoy.
The show begins with a musical performance by a live orchestra under the direction of William Folger. Under his direction the group of 13 musicians played music that could clearly be identified as English, setting the scene and taking viewers far away from campus.
When the curtain is finally raised the spectacular set, designed by Tom Anderson and Pfeiffer, is revealed to the audience. A larger than life rotating mechanism with a different set on each of its four sides allows the story to take place in different rooms of a castle, out in the countryside and in dark forests inhabited by mythical beings. The swift movement of the set makes for rapid scene changes without the need to wait for props to be moved, making sure that scene breaks don’t take away from the experience.
The visuals are further enhanced by the costumes designed by Leslie Yarmo. Glittering fabrics, furs and layers of ethereal cloth alongside armor and coats of arms show the dedication and detail that is put into the show. Every knight has an individual coat of arms that is reflected in his clothing and every lady has a unique dress, helping viewers keep track of their favorite characters.
But all of this work would be for nothing without the skillful performances of the cast. British accents are perfected with very few slip-ups and only rarely did the music overpower the singing voices of the lead roles.
The role of King Arthur, played by James Bartlett Carpenter, is expertly cast. Carpenter’s booming voice and commanding stage presence give believability to his place as King. Queen Guenevere, played by Brittany Eaton, displays a realistic mix of royal propriety and headstrong romanticism that make her dialogue comedic while also integral to the plot.
Lancelot, played by Michael Pistorio, shows an impressive command of the French accent, rarely faltering even during emotionally heavy scenes.
And the true comedy in the show can be found in the character of Pellinore, played by Joe Arnett, whose antics as a slightly senile old man are enhanced by his pet Horrid the Dog, played by a real dog named Matilda. Matilda’s barking, even when unplanned for, was played off as part of the show in an effortless and professional way.
The chorus and minor roles seemed almost inconsequential in the beginning where they lack character development. As the show progresses however, their individual personalities shine through in harmonized choral numbers such as “The Lusty Month of May” and “Fie on Goodness!” and also in their use as comedic relief.
Even the characters of Mordred and Morgan Le Fay, played by Michael Windsor and Sarah O’Malley respectively, who were introduced late in the musical, received enough character development to become believable in a very short amount of time compared to other roles thanks to the well played eccentricity of the actors.
Few faults can be found in Camelot. The only noticeable technical difficulty of the entire show was when the door of the set was left open and was closed mid-scene, and for the most part the actors’ voices were clear and understandable during dialogue and songs. The only real detriment to the show is the run time, which is three hours long including intermission.
But for those who want to experience the world of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, three hours may not be enough.