Thursday, May 15, 2008

For one brief shining moment

TiVo is a marvelous contraption, for it caught Sunday's Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of the NY Phil's semi-staged Camelot, which I had no idea was happening on account of life-on-spin-cycle. Last night I decided to take an evening to sit down and watch it and decompress rather than try to Get Stuff Done, with the result that I think more Stuff might well Get Done tonight than might otherwise have last night and tonight together. (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. *nodnodnodnodnod*)

While it was far from an ideal Camelot, it had its moments. Most of them provided by Nathan Gunn, who is, if not the BEST LANCELOT EVER, a ludicriously close second to Richard White. Yes, the opera star with (I'm given to understand) no musical theatre credits? Put everyone but maybe Marin Mazzie to shame. Serious whoa.

Christopher Lloyd as Pellinore = well, of course. Also, I'm reasonably certain there was some ad-libbed color in the description of the Questing Beast, among other things. Stacy Keach was a perfectly serviceable Merlin.

The book was shuffled oddly in a few places ("Before I Gaze" in Act II? Srsly?), and I remain convinced that if you're cutting anything, the entire Morgan LeFay scene should be the first to go (thus rendering the casting of Fran Drescher a moot point). It just doesn't fit. Hateithateithateit. (Probably doesn't help that I imprinted hard on the 1982 revival. But they were right to cut it! And wrong to cut "Fie on Goodness," which this one did too. I don't know if people don't want it to look like Mordred corrupts the knights too easily or what, but dude, that's the point: the Table was ALWAYS fragile. It represents change that's incredibly hard to implement, and incredibly easy to backslide from.) Haven't decided yet what I think of Goth!Mordred -- the whole production is an odd mix of contemporary and pseudo-period design, and there's a way in which it makes sense, but he's perhaps a bit too jarring.

Gabriel Byrne seems like a no-brainer for Arthur in theory (even if he hadn't started his movie career as Uther!), but in practice, errrrmm. Speak-singing still needs to have a bit more relationship to what the orchestra is doing. He plugged along pretty gamely, but he was the one you could really tell was underrehearsed and out of his element.

Which was a pity, because for the bits where the singing was taken out of the equation, there were some solid "oh, yeah, that" moments. Not that my heart doesn't break for any Arthur during Guenevere's aborted execution -- the scene is constructed to be pretty well cast-proof -- but you could see Mordred's lines ("Let her die, your life is over; let her live, your life's a fraud!") hitting him and cutting deep.

And of course I will never not get chills during the "Resolution" speech that closes Act I, and never not cry at the knighting of Tom of Warwick. Do justice to those, and you're allowed to be Arthur. (Even if Byrne did drop "not a man" after "I am a king," which gives me a cramp in my sense of rhetoric.)

I love that speech so very, very much...

Proposition: If I could choose from every woman who breathes on this earth, the face I would most love -- the smile, the touch, the heart, the voice, the laugh, the very soul itself, every detail and feature to the last strand of the hair -- it would all be Jenny.

Proposition: If I could choose from every man who breathes on this earth -- a man for my brother, a man for my son, and a man for my friend, it would all be Lance.

I love them. I love them and they answer me with pain. And torment. Be it sin, or not sin, they have betrayed me in their hearts, and that's far sin enough! I can see it in their eyes. I can feel it when they speak. And they must pay for it and be punished. I shall not be wounded and not return it in kind. I demand a man's vengeance!

Proposition: I am a king, not a man. And a very civilized king. Could it possibly be civilized to destroy the thing I love? Could it possibly be civilized to love myself above all? What about their pain? And their torment? Did they ask for this calamity? Can passion be selected? Is there any doubt of their devotion to me, and to our Table?

By God, I shall be a king! This is the time of King Arthur, when we shall reach for the stars. This is the time of King Arthur, when violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness. We are civilized!

Resolved: We shall live through this together, Excalibur, they, you, and I. And may God have mercy on us all.

Chills, man. I know a lot of people who really hate the show, and I will never ever understand.

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