The White Plains Performing Arts Center, White Plains, NY

(also see Camelot at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, May 10, 2008)

Having been somewhat disappointed by last May’s Lincoln Center Production of Camelot, I didn’t expect much.  How could a regional theatre out-produce, out-direct, out-cast, out-act and out-sing such a vaunted venue?  Who could foolishly imagine that a small city performing arts center would outdo in every way a NYC giant, internationally revered house?

After all, Lincoln Center had Gabriel Byrne, Marin Mazzie, Stacy Keach as Merlyne, Christopher Lloyd as Pellinore and other well-experienced, well-established actors and singers.

This production has less known stars, although Robert Cuccioli as King Arthur has been on and off Broadway, in films and television, and he does a fine job.  He can also sing, something which his predecessors, Byrne, Richard Harris and Richard Burton, could not.  Gregg Goodbrod in the key role of Lancelot balances the oxymoron of swagger and humility with great skill.  After all, Lancelot is nigh perfect, and perfection must include humility.

The rest of the cast, support and lead, are highly professional and one could mention each of their performances with high compliment, but then one would run out of space.

And then there is Juli Robbins.  Whenever an actress enters the stage for the first time in a role in which she is supposed to be beautiful, the audience can hardly resist looking upon her for the first time to see if She-Who-Is-Cast has that rare combination of beauty and talent.  Models are beauties who usually can’t act and actresses are either beauties who also can’t act or not such beauties who can.  So when Ms. Robbins entered for the first time I was apprehensive.  Where would she fall short? 

Happily not in the looks department.  She was beautiful.  Okay.  We have seen this before.  A beauty who can sing a little, maybe act a little, maybe...

Wow!  From the moment she opened her mouth I knew she was a great singer;  from the first line she delivered I knew she could act.  The rest of the play just confirmed with every breath she took, every word she spoke, every lyric she sang that we were in the presence of that rare breed:  one who can do it all.

Well I could go on raving about Juli, my heart on my sleeve, but then i would be neglecting the rest of what was great about this production.  The simple set and lighting design, and the two grand pianos in lieu of orchestra, were more than offset in scale by the acting, singing, directing and overall production.  Not to minimize these important aspects.  The pianists, visible on aeries above the stage, were great, and there were no major lighting distractions.

Have the questions posed in the first paragraph been answered? 

WPPAC somehow does all those things.  This second season premiere bodes well for the rest of the season and seasons to come.

And the seats.  Ah, the seats.  More comfortable with more legroom than you have any right to expect.

Gregg Goodbrod, Juli Robbins, Robert Cuccioli