The Granada’s Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts has now presented two of these classic Broadway musicals in concert, and the quality in both last year’s My Fair Lady and this year’s Camelot in Concert has been excellent. Director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge is an expert adaptor, and her talent, plus the exposure both here in Santa Barbara and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, has made these productions magnets for major stars. This Camelot boasted five of them: Barry Bostwick in the role of Merlyn, Brandi Burkhardt as a soulful Guenevere, Michael Campayno as the young stud Lancelot du Lac, Josh Grisetti as the villainous Mordred, and Robert Sean Leonard as a memorably noble King Arthur.
Camelot is among the most durable and satisfying of all the great Broadway warhorses, and Lerner and Loewe weave their medieval tapestry brilliantly. It’s not just a late (1960) manifestation of the golden age, Rodgers and Hammerstein–style show; it’s the fulfillment of that tradition, and it goes a little further, too. It doesn’t hurt that Camelot’s central triangle of Art, Lance, and Guen is so compelling, and the additional interest of Arthur’s inventing democracy lends things a certain gravity. But the ultimate charm is where it should be: in the music. There were highlights galore in this sparkling version, from such familiar standards as Lancelot’s “If Ever I Would Leave You” to the King’s surprisingly ambivalent “How to Handle a Woman.” The curtain is up on this fun annual event, and so far the results are very much worth watching.