REVIEW: CAMELOT (London Palladium) ★★★★★
Enchanting. Passionate. Rousing.
The London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s concert version of Camelot is all of these things and more. I can scarcely think of a better way to spend a cold autumn evening than listening to Lerner and Loewe’s moving score played by an orchestra and company as marvellous as this.
Most famous for the 1967 film version with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave as Arthur and Guenevere, Camelot has not been staged in the West End for more than 30 years and given this show, conducted excellently by LMTO founder Freddie Tapner, you can only wonder if it’s time for a revival. David Thaxton easily gives Harris a run for his money as the good King Arthur; congenial, idealistic and containing multitudes. He deserves this role entirely, gives it his all, and what might be all too earnest in a lesser actor is admirable and human in him.
What I wouldn’t give to see him play this role again in a staged version. The West End would be better for it, not least for his performance of How to Handle a Woman, which is far less sexist and far more romantic than one might expect given its title. Thaxton is perfectly matched by Charles Rice, who is simply divine as Arthur’s rival and best friend Lancelot. His swooning version of If Ever I Would Leave You has the audience melting in their seats, whilst his entrance as a more cocksure pre-Guenevere Lancelot showed comedic prowess that had us eating out of the palm of his hand from the off. We believe every moment, simply because Lancelot expects us to; he lands a lot. As Guenevere herself, Savannah Stevenson also shines. She brings a grounded but nonetheless dreamy quality, transporting us to Camelot with the very clarity of her voice. We see every inch the glorious Queen that Lancelot and her husband adore. It is very easy to fall in love with her, making it similarly easy to suspend your disbelief when these two men do at the drop of a hat (or at a bend of the knee). The company on the whole were wonderful. There were slight stumbles (for instance, Sam Swann was not altogether convincing as the fractious orchestrator of Arthur’s downfall Mordred, getting a little lost among the other Knights who stood out, despite their lack of solos), yet none detracted from the overall magic of the evening.
Celinde Schoenmaker as the ethereal Nimue was just stunning, vocally and otherwise. If anything, it’s a shame we didn’t see more of her. This is symptomatic of an issue within the musical itself, that it lacks central roles for women, but it is worth noting that diversity was an issue on the whole for this production, far beyond gender. The 16-strong chorus, whilst all remarkable, were also all white and it would have been good to see more racial diversity there and in the main cast too, where Raphael Higgins-Humes as Tom of Warwick (making a splendid appearance late in the show) and Emmanuel Kojo as Sir Lionel are the only performers of colour to be featured.
As it was, Kojo and the two other main Knights, played equally as handsomely by Oliver Savile and Matthew McKenna, were excellent support for the romantic trio, and delighted, especially in their song with Guenevere, where even a little joke about moving music stands drew laughter from the audience. Indeed, it was as funny a concert as it was genuinely moving. Clive Carter particularly stands out, first as Merlyn and later as the blustering but well-meaning King Pellinore, whose very ‘ho-ho-ho’ laugh seems to have gout. The orchestra were enough to swell the smallest of hearts, and I defy anyone to not have left the London Palladium, if not believing in Camelot, then at the very least believing in David Thaxton and the LMTO – what a fantastic showcase for both! I, for one, will be following them all the closer – where they lead lies joy.
Reviewed by Laura Stanley
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli