Two River Theater Company opens Lerner and Loewe’s musical “Camelot” tonight, but it’s not going to be what you expect. Instead of a large cast in sumptuous costumes with a pit orchestra, you’ll get 8 musicians and 8 actors in Arthurian street clothes. Oh, and some nudity.
New York-based actress Britney Coleman, who plays Guenevere and is the only female cast member, says it’s a show designed for Millennials (born from the early ’80s to the early 2000s) that also will appeal to traditional theatergoers who’ll enjoy seeing the 1960 musical in a new light.
Dialogue was trimmed and reassigned where needed for the smaller cast, Coleman explains No songs were cut. As a matter of fact, she says, director David Lee (a writer for the American sitcoms “The Jeffersons” and “Cheers” and a co-creator, writer, director, and executive producer of “Wings” and “Frasier”) was determined to restore two songs cut from the original Broadway show. (Know what they are? Answer below.)
“A lot of young people get turned off by the idea of traditional musical theater,” she adds. “David’s (approach) is a more youthful approach with lusty undercurrents coming from a real place.”
Speaking of which … when interviewed several weeks into rehearsal, New York City-based actress Coleman hadn’t rehearsed the naked bit yet.
“We’ll work on it when we get to it,” she laughs during a telephone interview. “I just know it will be brief.”
‘Camelot’ LP was king of the music charts
When the musical first opened on Broadway in 1960, Richard Burton as Arthur was 35 years old, Julie Andrews as Guenevere was 25 and Robert Goulet as Lancelot was 27. In the 1967 movie of the musical, Richard Harris was 37 and Vanessa Redgrave was 30.
Adapted from the T. H. White novel “The Once and Future King,” the original show had a cast of almost 60. More astounding, the cast album was one of America’s top-sellers for 60 weeks. Neither of those things happen these days.
And, of course, one of America’s youngest presidents was fond of the cast album and since then it has been associated with the administration of John F. Kennedy. Like Arthur, Kennedy had an idealistic vision of making the world a better place.
Coleman says streamlining the musical helps audiences to focus on the story, the words and how youthful idealism can go wrong. A young cast with seven hunky male actors will help that along. As Coleman says, a handsome King Arthur makes her decision to leave her husband, to follow her heart and go with the Lancelot, that much more difficult.
“No one meanders in the show. Arthur rarely sits alone on stage and contemplates what’s happening to his kingdom until this incredible moment at the end of Act 1 when he works it out. David didn’t want Shakespeare asides. He chose what was most effective.”
The Harry Potter connection
Coleman, who earned a BFA in Musical Theatre at The University of Michigan, said doing shows with large casts meant other people took care of changing scenery and placing props. Doing all that and more, she says, keeps her on her toes in this show. (When she was in a production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ “ all the actors played multiple instruments as well.)
“It’s hard to get bored in a show when you have all of these other responsibilities.”
Coleman says most people know her for the four-video parody “A Very Potter Musical,” with music and lyrics by Darren (“Glee”) Criss, based on the series of HP books. It was performed in 2009 on the University of Michigan campus and is available to watch online. She played Beatrix.
She has no idea who she is playing after “Camelot” closes Dec. 14. That, she says, is the actor’s lot.
Trivia answer: Musical numbers cut from original show but on the LP are: “Then You May Take Me to the Fair” and “Fie on Goodness!”
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For tickets, click here.
Britney likes to control her message. Check out her new website here:
Watch “A Very Potter Musical,” here.
Read more about Lerner & Loewe here.
A short video of the show, click here.