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Ketchikan Arts & Entertainment

First City Players' Camelot Opens Season with A ROUND TABLE,
 "Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."
By Sharon Allen


November 15, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - This past Thursday night, Camelot, Lerner & Lowe's musical adaptation of the classic Arthurian legend, opened to an enthusiastic crowd at the Kayhi auditorium.  As First City Players' first performance of the season, it showcased yet another cast of our surprisingly talented neighbors, set upon a spectacular circular turning stage made royal with rich and imaginative sets.  The costumes were resplendent, the music upbeat and hummingly familiar, the choreography fun and full of entertaining originality and the acting both well-done and well-directed.  All together, Camelot delivered just what it promised: romance, intrigue, humor and a night filled with the kind of magic not soon to be forgot.

jpg Camelot cast

The cast of Camelot...
Photograph by Jeff Fitzwater ©2005

This Camelot was not the Broadway style multi-set spectacle, with pink smoke and overdone accouterments and scenery. Instead, Director Elizabeth Nelson and Technical Director Deb Turnbull focused on creating a framework for the emotional story itself and thus, created a space for the actors to shine.  They, along with Forest Eads and Jonathan Morgan, created a superior set that physically turned 360 degrees.  Then, this "round table" stage platform was embellished with a few more various center drops, (think giant tree and castle entrance), surrounded with a forest of side trees to suggest different locations and framed by a row of medieval banners above and on each side of the stage itself.  It was a stunning display and it did an excellent job of transporting the audience into the magical world of T.H. White's Once and Future King.

Of course, we all know the background and the basic story of Arthur Pendragon and Excalibur.  The curtain rises on the young King as he is about to meet and wed Guenevere.  We meet Merlyn, see the hesitant boy Wart as he woos his queen and then travel forward to a place where Arthur speaks of his yearning to create a kinder, more peaceful world via the famed Knights of the Round Table (representing equality within a world without boundaries).  

jpg Camelot - King Arthur

Chuck Slagle as King Arthur &
Deb Clark-Smith as Guenevere...
Photograph by Jeff Fitzwater ©2005

jpg Camelot - Lancelot

Wayne Phillips as Lancelot...
Photograph by Jeff Fitzwater ©2005

As the play progresses, Arthur is caught between his love for Guenevere and Lancelot and his duty as King to the law.  Guenevere is caught between her early love for Arthur and her later passion for Lancelot.  Lancelot is caught between his forbidden love for Guenevere, his love for his King and friend, Arthur, his quest for perfection of the soul and body and his duty as a Knight of the Round Table. 

All the wonderful hit songs are there -- "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood," "Camelot," "If Ever I Should Leave You," "What Do the Simple Folk Do."   And betwixt it all, Merlyn is bedazzled and imprisoned by the Nymph Nimue, Pellinore stomps around with Horrid after a Beast, Morgan Le Fey is enticed by Mordred's Chocolate Ketchicandies and . . . ah, yes, Mordred.   Arthur's bastard son, that "son of a wicked mother," that "devil," that "nasty boy". . . HE is set loose amongst Camelot, determined to destroy Arthur. 

Mordred's chance comes when he succeeds in persuading his aunt, the fairy Morgan le Fay, to imprison Arthur for a night.  With Arthur gone, Lancelot and Guenevere fall into Mordred's trap and Lancelot gives way to the temptation of an opportunity to visit Guenevere in her chamber.  Mordred, of course, catches them together and charges them with treason.  Lancelot escapes, vowing to come back and rescue Guenevere. 

Then when Arthur returns and learns of the events of the night, he sadly and reluctantly agrees with the law that orders Guenevere to be burned at the stake. At the last moment, Lancelot rescues her, but it is at great cost in knightly lives. Peace dissolves into war.  Battles ensue.  Chaos reigns as before and Camelot is destroyed - yet amid this sad ending, a young boy, Tom of Warwick, becomes the voice of hope that will spread the word throughout the world about the glory that was Camelot.

Deb Clark-Smith makes for a delightful Guenevere.  With brunette waves of medieval-length hair, bright eyes and an impish spirit, she was the perfect pick for the young queen.   First appearing as a coquette lamenting of her untimely loss of maidenhood in exchange for a boring role of a wife and queen, we later watched as she came alive in the lusty month of May, ignited with indignation upon encountering the proud Lancelot, fell victim to the passion of forbidden love and then became helplessly caught between the two men in her life - her King and lover Lancelot.

She was vibrant in the part and spot-on throughout the play; whether exploding with youthful playfulness in "Lusty Month of May," or haunting the stage with the lyrics of "Before I Gaze at You Again."

Chuck Slagle was King Arthur and he more than justified First City Players' decision to offer him such a huge role.  Magnificent in voice, gesture and step, he looked every inch a King.  We felt pain as Slagle's Arthur wrestled with royal duty, honor, love and justice against all the frailties of the human race.  We felt Arthur's confusion when Chuck brilliantly rendered "I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight" and "How to Handle a Woman" with a robust voice. 

In short, Slagle's portrayal of Arthur throughout the play was endearing, honorable, sincere, wise, just and loving - with just enough confusion creeping into tone and step to hint at the fact that Arthur knew of his ultimate destiny, but of his being powerless to change it. 

Wayne Phillips was definitely a great choice as the knight whose shining armor would set any maiden's heart aflutter.  Tall, dark and handsome, he was admittedly more an actor than a singer, but he still did a good job at both.   In the first act, his "C'est Moi" was a character song that brought chuckles from the audience each time Lancelot pompously admitted to faultlessness and in the second act, Phillips' "If Ever I Would Leave You" was an emotional love song that brought tears to many eyes. 

jpg Camelot - Merlyn

David Allen as Merlyn...
Photograph by Jeff Fitzwater ©2005

David Allen seemed to be having a grand time playing the wise, knarled old Merlyn and delivered his usual flawless performance.  With bits of moss and twigs in an unkempt white beard, Merlyn gave advice even while handing out admonitions to the young Arthur whom we first meet high within the branches of a great tree, hiding from the heavy burden of an unexpected crown. 

Allen only appears as Merlyn in the first two scenes, but if your eyes were sharp you might have spotted Allen later in the ensemble singing and acting as a Lord of Camelot, yet again demonstrating his dedication, versatility and talent. 

Merlyn's Nymph, Nimue, never appeared on stage, but Kate Vikstrom sang "Follow Me" with a hauntingly beautiful voice from behind the curtain.  The sixties-hippy-like screening was a great touch, and one could easily imagine how Merlyn could fall victim to a woman with such an exquisite voice.

And, speaking of exquisite, Kathy Graham's wild, sexy good looks and powerful voice made her an ideal Morgan Le Fay.  The costumers outdid themselves with this role, covering Graham with a forest of filmy bits of green.  The choreography in this scene was also outstanding, especially Morgan's court chair, made up of her subjects' bodies.  All together, Morgan's lustful languid world came off well, and Graham's perfect delivery gave credence to Morgan's ultimate chocolate capitulation.
Then too, Hunter Davis gave us all an excellent Pellinore.  What?  What?
He and his wonderful dog, Horrid, (Gus McDonald), were great comic relief for the production.  Davis' warm yet crusty character lightened the stage with a down-to-earth paternal prattle done in such a way that blended well with the story without dominating it.  And although it was readily apparent that Gus was scared to death most of the time, he acted his doggy part of pointer well and was wonderfully well-behaved for a novice.

jpg Camelot - Morgan Le Fay

Kathy Graham's wild, sexy good looks and powerful
voice made her an ideal Morgan Le Fay. 
Photograph by Jeff Fitzwater ©2005

And while the character of Mordred was, perhaps, not so well-behaved, Ryan Gray portrayed the teenaged bastard son of Arthur with just the right amount of blind, egotistical evil.  Gray's one song, "The Seven Deadly Virtues," was sung with a deliciously malevolent air, a deep wickedness of voice and vivid facial expressions.  Everyone loves to hate a villain, and Gray's exceptional acting made it easy for us all to hate Mordred.

Also exceptional, the children of the cast should be acknowledged for their contribution.  Connor Jepson and Sarah Fitzgerald (think Wilbur of Charlotte's Web and King Louie of Jungle Book, respectively) were outstanding.  So too, was Alec Pankow as Tom of Warwick.  He was beyond charming with his sparkling eyes, winning smile and simple naiveté.

We don't meet Tom until the very end of the play, after Guenevere has left for the convent and she and Lancelot and Arthur have said their heartrending goodbyes.  The original script portrayed Tom as a barefoot young peasant boy.  A few other productions elected to make Tom more up-to-date; as a young boy sitting in Arthur's tree reading a copy of The Once and Future King. Nelson chose to keep young Tom as written in the original script ­ but both adaptations work. 

The important thing is that Tom portrays the symbol of hope for the future.   He embodies the hope that although we all make mistakes as we grow old, experience tragedies, feel despair and fail . . . all of our struggles to better ourselves and our world will not have been in vain.  That in living, we have, in some small way, made a difference and that with the cry of each new child as it is born into the world, the world becomes a better place. 

Thank you Chuck, Deb, David, Wayne, Hunter, Ryan, Kathy, Alec and the rest of the cast and crew, for reminding us there is a Camelot within each of us.    God grant that we do not soon forget.


EDITOR'S NOTES: David Allen (Merlyn) is the husband of the writer, Sharon Allen.

A DVD is available with a 35 minute slideshow of 650 photographs from the Camelot production by photographer Jeff Fitzwater.  The price is $25.00 and can be ordered from Jeff Fitzwater by calling 907-225-7833 or e-mail Jeff at rxmassage(AT) When emailing, remember to replace AT with @

Also available for purchase is a 13X19 inch Cast Picture, priced at $20.00.


Sharon Allen is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Sharon at sharon(AT)

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