Camelot (musical)

Camelot (musical)

Infobox Musical
name= Camelot

caption=Original Cast Recording
music= Frederic Loewe
lyrics= Alan Jay Lerner
book= Alan Jay Lerner
basis="The Once and Future King" by
T. H. White
productions= 1960 Broadway
1963 U.S. tour
1964 West End
1967 Film
1980 Broadway revival
1981 Broadway revival
1993 Broadway revival
2007 U.S. tour
2008 NY Philharmonic

"Camelot" is a musical by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederic Loewe (music). It is based on the King Arthur legend as adapted from the T. H. White novel "The Once and Future King".

The original 1960 production, directed by Moss Hart, ran on Broadway for 873 performances, winning four Tony Awards and spawning several revivals, foreign productions and a 1967 film version. The original cast album was America's top-selling LP for 60 weeks. [ Stempleski, Susan. Review of "Camelot" (] ]


In 1959, Alan Lerner and Moss Hart decided to adapt T. H. White's "Once and Future King" as their next project. As discussed in Lerner's 1978 book, "The Street Where I Live", Frederick Loewe, who had no interest in the project, agreed to write music, with the understanding that if things went badly, it would be his last score. [Lerner, p. 190] After the tremendous success of "My Fair Lady", expectations were high for a new Lerner and Loewe musical. However, the show's production met several obstacles. Lerner's wife left him during the writing process, [Lerner, p. 204] causing him to seek medical attention and delaying the production. When "Camelot" began rehearsals, it still needed considerable work. However, the producers were able to secure a strong cast including Julie Andrews, Richard Burton and Roddy McDowall, as well as Robert Goulet in his first Broadway role. John Cullum, also making his Broadway debut, later replaced McDowall during the Broadway run.

The show's first tryout was in Toronto, at the O'Keefe Centre in 1960. The curtain came down at twenty minutes to one in the morning; Lerner later noted that "Only "Tristan and Isolde" equaled it as a bladder endurance contest." [Lerner, p. 214] The morning papers, though kind, hinted that the show needed much work in order to succeed. Lerner was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer and had to withdraw from preparations for a time. Hart then suffered a heart attack, and Lerner stepped in as temporary director for the rest of the out-of-town run at the behest of Kitty Carlisle Hart. "Camelot" then moved to Boston, nearly an hour and a half shorter, but still running very long. The production team tried to find another director, even phoning Jose Ferrer, who could not undertake the job. [Lerner, p. 223] Lerner and Loewe disagreed on how to proceed with the show, as Loewe did not want to make any major changes without Hart's guidance. Lerner wrote: "God knows what would have happened had it not been for Richard Burton." Accepting cuts and changes, he radiated a "faith and geniality" and calmed the fears of the cast. [Lerner, pp. 230–31] Guenevere's song "Before I Gaze at You Again" was given to Andrews at the last minute before the first New York preview, which provoked her famous quote, "Of course darling, but do try to get it to me the night before." [Lerner, p. 232] After the show opened on Broadway, Hart was released from the hospital, and he and Lerner began cutting the play even further. Two songs, "Then You May Take Me To the Fair" and "Fie on Goodness," were cut.

The advance sale for the show was the largest in Broadway history. [ Gussow, Mel. "'Camelot' Returns With Goulet as King" "New York Times", June 22, 1993] ] The New York critics' reviews of the original production were mixed. [ Information from] ] Fortunately for the show, Ed Sullivan approached Lerner and Loewe to create a segment for his TV show "Toast of the Town," celebrating the fifth anniversary of "My Fair Lady". They decided to do very little from their previous hit and instead to perform four highlights from "Camelot". The show stimulated ticket sales, and "Camelot" achieved an unprecedented advance sale of three and a half million dollars. [ [ Rogers, Madeline. "New York Philharmonic: A Night at the Round Table", "", May 1, 2008] ] It was also publicized, just after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (a classmate of Lerner at Harvard), [Kantor and Maslon, p. 280] that the show's original cast recording had been favorite bedtime listening in the White House, and that Kennedy's favorite lines were in the final number (in which Arthur knights a young boy and tells him to pass on the story of Camelot to future generations): quote|Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

Since then, "Camelot" has been associated with the Kennedy administration. [ [ Information from Bard College website] ]

The obstacles encountered in producing "Camelot" were hard on the creative partnership of Lerner and Loewe, and the show turned out to be their last collaboration. "Camelot" was also Hart's last Broadway show. He died of a heart attack in Palm Springs, California on December 20, 1961. ["New York Times", December 21, 1961]


On December 3 1960, after two previews, the show opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theater. The production was directed by Moss Hart and ran for 873 performances, winning four Tony Awards. The original cast album was America's top-selling LP for 60 weeks. [ Stempleski, Susan. Review of "Camelot" (] ] A two-year U.S. tour followed the Broadway closing, starring Louis Hayward. An Australian production opened in Adelaide in October 1963 produced by the J. C. Williamson company and ran for two years.

The London production opened in August 1964 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and featured Laurence Harvey as Arthur, Elizabeth Larner as Guenevere and Barry Kent as Lancelot. It played for 518 performances. The film version was made in 1967 starring Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave.

Richard Burton reprised his role as Arthur in a revival that ran during the summer of 1980 at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. Christine Ebersole played Guenevere, and Richard Muenz was Lancelot.

The show was revived on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater in November 1981 and broadcast on HBO a year later, starring Richard Harris as Arthur, Meg Bussert as Guenevere, and Richard Muenz as Lancelot. Harris, who had starred in the film, and Muenz also took the show on tour nationwide. Another Broadway revival played in June 1993 for 56 performances at the George Gershwin Theatre, with Goulet now cast in the role of Arthur. Goulet reprised this role at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre in 1993.

A U.S. Regional tour, starring Michael York as Arthur, James Barbour as Lancelot, and Rachel York as Guenevere, kicked off on January 9 2007 and continues in 2008. Alan Jay Lerner's son, Michael Lerner, contributed changes to the libretto, and Glenn Casale directs. The cast also includes Shannon Stoeke as Mordred and Eric Anderson as Merlyn. Notable cast replacements include Lou Diamond Phillips as Arthur, Matt Bogart as Lancelot, and Rachel De Benedet as Guenevere. [ [ Playbill news] ] From June 27-30, 2007, the tour played at Toronto's Hummingbird Centre, formerly the O'Keefe Centre, where the musical had premiered in 1960. [ [ Notice for the 2007 Toronto tour stop] ]

From May 7 to May 10, 2008, the New York Philharmonic presented five semi-staged concerts of "Camelot" directed by Lonny Price and produced by Thomas Z. Shepard. The cast starred Gabriel Byrne as King Arthur, Marin Mazzie as Guenevere, and opera singer Nathan Gunn as Lancelot. It also featured Christopher Lloyd as Pellinore, Marc Kudisch as Lionel, Bobby Steggert as Mordred, Will Swenson as Sagramore, Christopher Seiber as Dinadan and Fran Drescher as Morgan le Fey. The May 8 performance was broadcast nationally on "Live from Lincoln Center" on PBS. [ [ 2008 article] ]

Roles and original cast

*King Arthur - Richard Burton
*Queen Guenevere - Julie Andrews
*Sir Lancelot - Robert Goulet
*Merlyn - David Hurst
*Pellinore - Robert Coote
*Mordred - Roddy McDowall
*Sir Dinadan - John Cullum
*Morgan Le Fey - M'el Dowd
*Lady Catherine - Virginia Allen
*Nimue - Marjorie Smith
*Sir Lionel - Bruce Yarnell
*Sir Ozanna - Michael Kermoyan
*Sir Gwilliam - Jack Dabdoub
*Sir Sagramore - James Gannon
*Lady Anne - Christina Gillespie
*Squire Dap - Michael Clarke-Laurence
*Clarius - Richard Kuch
*Tom of Warwick - Robin Stewart


Act I

King Arthur is nervous about his upcoming arranged marriage and is hiding in a tree. Merlyn, his wise tutor, calls Arthur down to warn the young king that he won't be around much longer. Merlyn, who lives backwards in time and remembers the future as well as the past, knows he will soon be separated from Arthur. Merlyn persuades Arthur to climb down by asking him what his subjects would think if they saw him in a tree ("I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight?"). Arthur hears someone coming and scampers up the tree again. Guenevere comes to the woods, uncertain about herself and her future ("Simple Joys of Maidenhood"). She stumbles into Arthur, who initially calls himself "Wart" (his childhood nickname) and then, hearing of her reluctance to marry, tells her of the joys of life in Camelot ("Camelot"). When his attendants come upon the two of them, he is revealed as the King. He tells Guenevere the story of how he pulled the sword from the stone and became king, and she, charmed by the story, agrees to marry him.

The wizard Merlyn is fatefully drawn into the cave of the nymph Nimue for his eternal sleep ("Follow Me"). Arthur is inspired to establish the Round Table of chivalrous knights who fight for the right. When news of this reaches young Lancelot in France five years later, he is determined to come to Camelot and join Arthur's knights ("C'est Moi"). King Pellinore also arrives. A May Day celebration takes place on the castle grounds ("The Lusty Month of May"), where Arthur introduces his wife to Lancelot. Guenevere takes an instant dislike to the cocky young man and incites three knights of the Round Table to engage him in a jousting match ("Then You May Take Me to the Fair"). Arthur is dismayed by this and at a loss to understand a woman's way ("How to Handle a Woman").

In the jousting match Lancelot easily defeats all three knights. He appears to kill the third, Lionel, with an errant sword thrust, but the dismay of the crowd turns to awe and adoration as he "miraculously" restores the mortally wounded knight to life. This adoration extends to Guenevere, who is forced to re-evaluate her feelings about the passionate young knight ("Before I Gaze at You Again"). Lancelot falls in love with the Queen and is torn by the conflict between this love and his devotion to Arthur. Arthur makes Lancelot a Knight of the Round Table. Arthur is painfully aware of the feelings between Lancelot and Guenevere but remains silent to preserve the tranquility of Camelot. He asks permission to leave Camelot for foreign conquests.

Act II

Several years later, Guenevere and Lancelot are still tormented by their unfulfilled love. He finally reveals his feelings to her ("If Ever I Would Leave You"). They both believe that Arthur is not aware of it. Nevertheless, she remains faithful to Arthur, and helps him in carrying out the affairs of State.

Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son, comes to Camelot to dishonour the King and try to gain the throne for himself. Arthur puts him in the knights’ training program, not knowing that Mordred is there to destroy the Round Table ("Seven Deadly Virtues"). Arthur begins to feel the strain of ruling England and wonders "What Do the Simple Folk Do" without any such responsibilities. A month later, Mordred has done a great deal of damage to the court by causing dicontentment among the knights ("Fie on Goodness!"). He schemes with his sorceress-aunt, Morgan le Fey, to trap Arthur in a forest one night ("The Persuasion"). During this night, Lancelot visits Guenevere in her chambers, where she reveals her love for him and kisses him ("I Loved You Once in Silence"). Mordred and some of the Knights of the Round Table interrupt, accuse Lancelot of treason, and imprison him. Lancelot escapes, but Guenevere is sentenced to burn at the stake ("Guenevere"). At the execution, Arthur watches from a distance, torn between upholding his law (as Mordred urges) and sparing Guenevere. At the last moment, Lancelot rescues her and takes her off with him to France.

For the sake of his own honour and that of Camelot, Arthur must now wage war against France. Mordred has taken up an army against Arthur. The war takes a terrible toll on Camelot, as half or more of the Knights of the Round Table are killed. Before the final battle, Arthur meets Lancelot and Guenevere, latter of whom has joined a convent and become a nun. They offer to face up to justice in England, but he will not see her burned; he forgives them both. That night in camp, Arthur meets a young stowaway named Tom who has come to join the Round Table. Arthur knights him on the field of battle with Excalibur and sends him back to England to grow up there and pass on to future generations the ideals of chivalry and Camelot ("Camelot" reprise).

Musical numbers

;Act I
*"Overture" and "The March [Parade] "
*"I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight" (Arthur)
*"The Simple Joys of Maidenhood" (Guenevere)
*"Camelot" (Arthur)
*"Camelot" (reprise) (Arthur and Guenevere)
*"Follow Me" (Nimue)
*"C'est Moi" (Lancelot)
*"The Lusty Month of May" (Guenevere and Company)
*"Then You May Take Me To the Fair" (Guenevere, Sir Lionel, Sir Sagramore, and Sir Dinadan)
*"How To Handle a Woman" (Arthur)
*"The Jousts" (Arthur, Guenevere and Ensemble
*"Before I Gaze at You Again" (Guenevere)

;Act II
*"If Ever I Would Leave You" (Lancelot)
*"The Seven Deadly Virtues" (Mordred)
*"What Do the Simple Folk Do?" (Arthur and Guenevere)
*"Fie on Goodness!" (The Knights)
*"The Persuasion" (Mordred and Morgan Le Fey)
*"I Loved You Once In Silence" (Guenevere)
*"Guenevere" (Company)
*"Camelot" (reprise) (King Arthur)

Critical assessments

The New York critics' reviews of the original production were mixed. A 1993 "New York Times" review commented that the musical "has grown in stature over the years, primarily because of its superb score.... [which] combined a lyrical simplicity with a lush romanticism, beautifully captured in numbers like 'I Loved You Once in Silence' and 'If Ever I Would Leave You.' These ballads sung by Guenevere and Lancelot are among the most memorable in the Lerner-Loewe catalogue. King Arthur supplies the wit, with songs like 'I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight.'" A 2003 review noted, "this musically rich, legend-based classic evokes enough swashbuckling spectacle to keep one smiling. And for lovers of dime-store romance, "Camelot" has it all – a beautiful English princess swept off her feet by a shy, but passionate bachelor king; an ardent French knight, torn between devotion to his liege and an uncontrollable hunger, reciprocated, to be sure, for the king's tempestuous wife.... "Camelot" features a score rich in English country-tune charm by Mr. Lerner. ["sic": Lowe wrote the music] Its lyrics, by Mr. Loewe ["sic": Lerner wrote the lyrics] , never fail to dazzle with their virtuosity and wit." [ [ Siegel, Naomi. "A Melancholy 'Camelot,' With Plenty of Scenery and Costumes", "New York Times", April 13, 2003] ] However, "Jay Lerner's murky book... has helped sink many a revival of the musical.... It's a good story, but Lerner's book is talky and dense, filled with pontificating soliloquies that would have been more powerfully contained in song. Moreover, while the entire show rushes towards a bloody climax... when it finally arrives, it is merely sketched upon in one song, "Guinevere." ...The score, though, is pure magic" [ [ Schwartz, Jonas. "Camelot", "Theatre Mania", September 17, 2007] ]

Awards and nominations

1961 Tony Awards
*Best Actor in a Musical - Richard Burton (winner)
*Best Scenic Design (Musical) - Oliver Smith (winner)
*Best Costume Design (Musical) - Adrian, Tony Duquette (winner)
*Best Conductor and Musical Director - Franz Allers (winner)
*Best Actress in a Musical - Julie Andrews (nominee) 1961 Theatre World Award
*Robert Goulet (winner)

Original cast recording chart positions

succession box
before = "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart" by Bob Newhart
title = "Billboard" 200 number-one album (mono)
years = March 13 1961 - April 30 1961
May 22 1961 - May 28 1961
after = "Stars of a Summer Night" by Various artists



*Lerner, Alan Jay. "The Street Where I Live" (1978) W. W. Norton & Company ISBN 0-393-07532
* [ Summary, production, and licensing information at Tams-Witmark]
* [ Camelot Audition Advice & Show Information] from []
* [ Synopsis and profile of the show]
* [ Profile of the show and information about the 2007 National Tour]
* [ Background of the show and commentary by Judy Harris]
*Kantor, Michael and Maslon, Laurence. "Broadway: The American Musical". Bluefinch Press, New York, 2004. ISBN 0-8212-2905-2

External links

* [ analysis of the show]
* [ information about the show] from
* [ Camelot] at the IBDB database
* [ profile of the Majestic Theatre] from Playbill
* [ information about recordings]

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