Camelot.

A place that was created in the imaginations of the musical's writers. A place where, after the arranged marriage of Arthur and Guinevere, the king gathers the noble knights of the realm to his Round Table. The dashing and stalwart Lancelot joins, but soon finds himself enraptured by the lovely Guinevere. When Arthur's illegitimate son, Mordred, reappears in the kingdom and outs the secret lovers, Arthur finds himself trapped by his own rules into taking action against his wife and closest friend.

In a 1963 Life interview, Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of JFK, referenced a line from the Lerner and Loewe musical to describe the Kennedy era White House: "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot."

Seeing this musical for the first time ever last weekend at the Embassy Theatre in downtown Cumberland, I now understand what Mrs. Kennedy meant.  I was privileged to visit this magical kingdom for two hours. It indeed was both magical and emotional.

Kevin Shreve carries the role of King Arthur with flawless, spectacular passion, taking the audience on a journey into the imaginary land of Camelot - where there is stillchivalry, honor, exceptional valor and ultimate betrayal. Shreve's range of emotion and intense character study is always impressive. His abilities as a leading actor and charismatic vocalist never fall sub-par. Ever. He chooses his roles very carefully, and is well known for his talents far and wide. The role of King Arthur was as if it were written just for him.

Morgan Witmer made the perfect decision to take on the role of Guinevere. She has been involved in the theater ever since she was a little girl, but over the past several years, she has been behind the scenes as director of Commander Company at Washington Middle School. In this production at Embassy, the audience will be blown away by her stage presence and commanding soprano voice. Morgan is captivating as Guinevere. 

Marty Jellison, a teacher at Calvary Christian Academy, exudes confidence in his role as Lancelot. Being involved in theater for many years as well, it was immediately clear to all attending that he was master of all things Lance. His never-waivering devotion to the King is played perfectly, and that confidence in his mastery of the character was applauded with enthusiasm. Audience members can see how pained he is as he struggles with his love for his King and his love for the King's wife. 

As with many productions, it takes an antagonist to make things much more interesting, and Kirk Squires as Mordred does just that. As the illegitimate son of Arthur, he was denied his birth rite all of his life, and here Kirk uses all of his acting "chops" to validate his black heart and betray the lovers to a king who would have to honor his own rules. Kirk is magnificent, dastardly so. This "bad boy" brought it on, and Kirk Squires stands his own against the more seasoned Shreve. 

The set at Embassy? One of the best I have seen there.  Also featured in the cast are Kyle Vogtman, Garrett Webb, Hayden Davis, George Brown, Mike Bambara, Adam Swayne, Matt Armentrout, Ron Growden, Olivia Howard, Tina Phillips and Tawney Jenkins.

The show is under the direction of Tom Valentine with choreography and music by Desiree Witt; Costumes and set pieces are from Danise Whitlock; And other credits go to the stage crew of Don Llewellyn, Garrett Webb, Rocky Alls, Steve Swygert, Marty Jellison, Tom Valentine, Tina Phillips, Kristen Fetters, Garrett Webb, and Timothy Bambara.

A special note on this production: Camelot has not been performed locally since 1981, when it was done by Stage Left Theatre. Prior to that, it was done at Allegany High School when William H. Macy portrayed Mordred. 

"Camelot" runs one final weekend -- September 27-29 - with performances Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinne at 2 p.m.

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