Camelot, a musical based on the Arthurian legend, reunited most of the creative talent that produced My Fair Lady, including lyricist/librettist Alan Jay Lerner, composer Frederick Loewe, and leading lady Julie Andrews. Lerner had once again found a story that conformed to his favorite theme, a romantic triangle involving an older man, a younger ...
Camelot, a musical based on the Arthurian legend, reunited most of the creative talent that produced My Fair Lady, including lyricist/librettist Alan Jay Lerner, composer Frederick Loewe, and leading lady Julie Andrews. Lerner had once again found a story that conformed to his favorite theme, a romantic triangle involving an older man, a younger woman, and an ardent suitor. As with My Fair Lady and his and Loewe's recent movie musical Gigi, the older man was played by a distinguished actor not known for his singing, in this case Richard Burton, who was making his musical comedy debut. Loewe wrote some melodies of limited range for Burton, but he proved to be a much more accomplished singer than his predecessors, Rex Harrison and Louis Jourdan, and certainly Harrison's equal in his articulation and phrasing of the English language. This made his performances of such songs as "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight" and the title song delights. Andrews brought her own beautiful English pronunciations and pure singing to light songs like "The Lusty Month of May" and "Then You May Take Me to the Fair," but she didn't really have a big number. Robert Goulet, making his Broadway debut, did, the show's standout song, "If Ever I Would Leave You," and he wrapped his powerful baritone voice around it. His was a career-making performance. Critics naturally compared Camelot with My Fair Lady and often found it wanting. The criticisms had more to do with the stage production than the score, but it too is not up to the standards of the earlier work. In particular, it often seems that Lerner intends the lyrics to be funnier than they come across as delivered. For example, Goulet as Sir Lancelot is introduced with "C'Est Moi," a boastful song that might have made him more ridiculous than he should be, if the words weren't swamped by Loewe's music. And songs like "The Lusty Month of May" and "Then You May Take Me to the Fair" recall similar and more impressive efforts by earlier Broadway lyricists such as Oscar Hammerstein II ("June Is Bustin' Out All Over") and Lorenz Hart ("To Keep My Love Alive"), respectively. But the performers sell the songs effectively, particularly by the end, when Burton's melancholy reading of the reprise to the title song, with its evocation of "one brief, shining moment that was known as Camelot," moistens the eyes of every listener. [The digitally remastered 1998 reissue contains no bonus tracks, but it re-sequences the tracks to conform to the actual order in which they were performed on-stage, which means that "March (Parade)" now immediately follows the "Overture" instead of being relegated to side two of the LP; that, as a result, the "Overture" and "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight" are now separate tracks instead of a single one; that "The Lusty Month of May" follows "C'Est Moi" instead of preceding it; and that "Before I Gaze at You Again" precedes "If Ever I Would Leave You" instead of following it. The package also contains extensive liner notes by Marc Kirkeby.] ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
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