Review: ‘Camelot’ at Compass Rose Theater

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Is all fair in love and war? As Compass Rose Theater’s production of Camelot shows, both can leave hearts broken. Produced and Directed by Lucinda Merry-Browne, this iconic musical infused with colorful lighting, lyrical songs, and talented actors and singers. Camelot is an enchanting musical by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music), adapted from the T. H. White novel The Once and Future King. The accompanying pianist, Sangah Purinton, and the gifted singers bring the music and show to life.

Carl Pariso plays Arthur, founder of the Knights of the Round Table, with a noble and lovable intellect. Pariso’s performance is full of passion. His love for Guenevere (Anna Deblasio) is shown with a look, a touch, a gentle kiss – their love is real. Pariso’s expressions demonstrate a knowing level of Arthur’s brains and brawn. Pariso’s gentle baritone voice is pure magic in “Camelot” and “How to Handle a Woman,” and in the ensemble number “The Jousts,” he blends seamlessly with the cast.

Joe Ventricelli (Lancelot) and Carl Pariso (King Arthur). Photo by Stan Barouh.

When Arthur and Guenevere join together in the two opening numbers, “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight” and “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” a sweet chemistry is created. Deblasio has a beautiful soprano  that engaged me. Together, they meet each note with certainty. Deblasioa’s Guenevere is an honest and forthcoming character and Deblasioa is a triple- threat with her singing, acting, and dancing abilities. She performs the saucy number, “The Lusty Month of May,” with surprising poise. Pariso and Deblasio deliver in their duet, “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”

Handsome Lancelot (Joe Ventricelli) has a glint in his eyes when he looks at Guenevere – making his love for her believable. His resistance gives way to giving his all to Guenevere. Ventricelli, and Deblasio’s chemistry is full of yearning. Their affections for one another also stem from a look, a touch, a kiss. Ventricelli’s charisma and voice are over-the-top in the song, “C’est Moi”.

Compass Rose’s production of Camelot is known for frequently double-casting one actor into two roles. For example, Joe Rossi plays the two characters of Pellimore and Morgan Le Fey and pulls both of them off masterfully. Pellimore is an old friend of Arthur’s and his loyalty is tried and true. He shows his kindness with his soft-spoken voice and fierceness when protecting his friend. Pellimore is a likable character whereas Morgan Le Fey, the sorceress that resides in the forest, is mean and willing to use magic against Arthur and Guenevere. Rossi plays Morgan Le Fey with ease and adds a good dose of humor to the role.

Tim Garner is another of the show’s actors tasked with portraying multiple roles. Garner delivers the roles of Merlyn and Mordred with style. Merlyn, the wise and wonderful wizard, is mentor to Arthur, whereas Mordred wants nothing more than to see his father dead. Garner brings Merlyn to life with large gestures and a commanding voice, announcing his concerns for Arthurs’s future. As Mordred, Garner uses smirky facial expressions to portray the evil lurking in his heart. Garner and Rossi deliver a fine rendition of “Persuasion”

Kate Boothroyd plays Lady Anne, a rather quiet character that blends in but who can be a gossip when she speaks, as well as Nimue, an alluring nymph that partakes in witchcraft. Her vocal and singing skills are on full display in her performance of “Follow Me.”

Sarah Grace Clifton is endearing in the role of Tom of Warwick and full of grace as a Lady-in-Waiting. Tom is an impish character as he rocks back and forth on his toes, wears a silly grin, and nods his head zealously. On the other hand, as a Lady, Clifton is quite the beauty with her light and airy movements across the stage. Clifton’s facial expressions, be it a raised brow or a pursed lip, reflect the mood of the scene. Her singing voice compliments the ensemble number, “Camelot (Reprised).”

Sir Dinadan (Jaecob Lynn) one of the best jousters among the Knights of the Round Table, enjoys a scene of exciting action with Lancelot and Sir Lionel (Lansing O’Leary). The Knights, including Knight/Squire Dap (Eric McGraw), raise the level of action with their jousting. Vocally, they share the stage with the lead cast, projecting their deep voices as in “The Joust” and in Act II song “Guenevere.”

Anna DeBlasio (Guenevere) and Joe Ventricelli (Lancelot). Photo by Stan Barouh.

Jason Lynch’s Lighting Design enhances the magnificent set which depicts King Arthur’s kingdom of Camelot, draped in a plethora of ivy, with varying performance levels. Tim Garner’s choreography comes to life in the jousting scenes and makes excellent use of the stage space.

The costumes by a full team of costumers, (Renee Vergauwen, Kate Boothroyd, Beth Terranova, Elizabeth Holt, Mary Ruth Cowgill) dress Guenevere’s and her ladies-in-waiting in elegant gowns made of soft materials and sparkles. The men wear long tunics, black tights, boots, and white, billowy charmeuse shirts. Tones of browns, tans, and blues make up their full costumes. Merlyn wears a to-the-floor coat that represents his profession as a wizard.

Audiences will enjoy Compass Rose’s production of Camelot and its focus on love and honor. Lucinda Merry-Browne has a knack for casting and for directing, and we see this in the excellent performances.

Because of the cast’s rich and lush voices, and their passionate performances, Compass Rose Theater’s Camelot is an enchanting show for all. It is the perfect gift for the holidays.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission.

Camelot plays through January 22, 2017, at Compass Rose Theater – 49 Spa Road, in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 980-6662, or purchase them online.

RATING: 

Note: There is a break in performances from December 23 – 25 2016.

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Danielle Angeline
Danielle Angeline was bit by the theater bug when she took a set design class in college. Her instructor reminded her of George Michael (Got to Have Faith). She then decided to major in technical theater and design at Towson State University. After graduating, this led her to work at Universal Studios Florida and the Carnival Cruise Lines as a stage manager, group coordinator and arcade manager. Returning home to Maryland, her career transitioned from CAD work to a technical writer/trainer for the past 15 years. During that time, Danielle volunteered as an Information Specialist with the Smithsonian. Museum assignments included Natural History, Portrait Gallery, and the Castle. She is now pursuing her theatre/arts career again as a writer and dedicating herself to her greatest passions: theatre, writing, family & friends, painting, tasty & innovative cuisine and her cats: Cheyanne and Sierra.