Camelot (The 2023 Broadway Cast Recording) | Review
Monday, August 7, 2023
We are placed squarely in the realm of classic Broadway – and what a pleasure that is
From its opening swirl of strings and triumphant brass fanfare, the new recording of Camelot instantly announces that we are squarely in the realm of classic Broadway – and what a pleasure that is. Lerner and Loewe’s heady brew of wildly romantic ballads, ‘charm’ songs and slyly comic numbers has made Camelot a beloved title for decades, and its blend of romance, politics and pageantry amid a medieval setting makes it unlike any other show in the canon. That this 63-year-old musical hadn’t previously received a second Broadway cast recording makes this one especially welcome.
All in all, this recording allows us to enjoy the chief pleasure of the new Broadway production – that timeless music – undiluted by its cumbersome book
While the sumptuous Lincoln Center production features a significantly revised and somewhat ponderous book by eminent screenwriter and playwright Aaron Sorkin, the glorious score remains largely unaltered, including the lavish original Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J Lang orchestrations for an orchestra of 30. The two significant changes are not for the better, however. The elimination of ‘Follow Me’ robs us of the most haunting song in the score, and reassigning Guenevere’s ‘I Loved You Once in Silence’ to Lancelot hampers Guenevere’s ability to gain sympathy late in the show.
Despite the enormous size and scope of Camelot, almost the entire score is given over to its three leads – Andrew Burnap as King Arthur, Phillipa Soo as Guenevere and Jordan Donica as Lancelot. All three sing beautifully without banishing memories of the original trio of Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet. (But then again, who could?) Burnap registers most distinctively with his sweetly boyish tenor gradually gaining gravitas as Arthur matures into his role as king, and he certainly carries a tune more securely than Burton did.
Burnap and Soo also have an appealing rapport in their playfully contentious duets. Soo’s lovely lyric soprano often recalls Andrews’s, even if she lacks some of her predecessor’s lustiness. Donica offers a large-voiced Lancelot that comes across as a little forced on the recording. His plummy diction leads to him overplaying the comedy and undermining the character’s credibility when he turns more introspective. All three actors employ vaguely mid-Atlantic accents that may sound jarring to British listeners but are at least fairly consistent.
All in all, this recording allows us to enjoy the chief pleasure of the new Broadway production – that timeless music – undiluted by its cumbersome book. Even absent the grandeur of the visuals on Lincoln Center’s vast stage, the opportunity to encounter a score as mammoth and transporting as this one is still a bet worth taking.
Frederick Loewe music
Alan Jay Lerner lyrics, book
Aaron Sorkin book
Cast Andrew Burnap, Phillipa Soo, Jordan Donica, Dakin Matthews, Taylor Trensch et al
Orchestrations Robert Russell Bennett, Philip J Lang
Dance/choral arrangements Trude Rittman
Orchestra / Kimberly Grigsby