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Beauty, heart and a sad tale in ‘Camelot’

Jennie SophiNick Sandys star “Camelot” Light OperWorks. | PhoChris Ocken

Jennie Sophia and Nick Sandys star in “Camelot” at Light Opera Works. | Photo Chris Ocken

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♦ 8 p.m. June 8-9; 2 p.m. June 10

♦ Light Opera Works, Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston

♦ Tickets, $32-$92

♦ (847) 920-5360 or visit

Updated: June 7, 2012 5:09PM

Lerner & Loewe’s luscious musical “Camelot” could easily be called “When bad things happen to good people.”

In the course of the narrative we come to love kindhearted King Arthur, his beautiful Guenevere, and eventually even the boastful Lancelot. Then Mordred, Arthur’s bastard son, arrives and everything goes wrong. The Round Table is broken and the dream of Camelot destroyed. It’s actually a very sad story.

Light Opera Works in Evanston is presenting a gorgeous production of this 1960 Tony-winning Broadway musical though June 10. On stage at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston is a cast of 31 performers directed by Rudy Hogenmiller, the company’s artistic director. In the pit are 29 musicians, under the baton of Roger L. Bingaman.

The show has exemplary principals. Nick Sandys (Henry Higgins in Light Opera Works’ “My Fair Lady”) is a fine Arthur, brimming with idealism and good will. He looks young for the part, though Richard Burton was just 35 when he created the role on Broadway. Arthur doesn’t have to sing, but Sandys does occasionally and credibly, especially in the title song, when he woos Guenevere with his country’s weather report.

Beautiful Jennie Sophia (Fiona in Light Opera Works’ “Brigadoon” last season) is a sparkling Guenevere, with a clear soprano voice that suggests the musical’s first leading lady. When she sings “Before I Gaze at You Again,” we share her soul-searing dilemma.

William Travis Taylor is a big, powerful Lancelot with a voice to match. His character, so confident with a sword, is felled by Cupid’s tiny arrow, and Taylor ably projects the pain this causes him.

And then there is Mordred, the spoiler. Patrick Tierney is the perfect the kid you love to hate — a baby-face devil with twinkling eyes and a poisonous heart.

The cast includes knights, ladies-in-waiting and assorted storied characters, most notably the old knight Pellinore, played with perfection by Skip Lundby; Merlyn, portrayed as suitably befuddled by Michael Harnichar; Morgan Le Fey, embodied by the mysterious Patrice Eglesto; and Nimue, played by the shining Kari Sorenson.

The dances, choreographed by Todd Rhoades, are charming, especially in “The Lusty Month of May” number, but not particularly imaginative. Still, the dancers are skilled and the costumes by Jeff Hendry run from simple to quite grand.

On opening night (June 2) one of the spotlights that shone on Guenevere gave her face a jaundiced hue. Perhaps this has been corrected in subsequent performances.

The music in the show is beyond memorable. The crowd literally walks out humming, and the lyrics are both clever and warm-hearted. Light Opera Works has given this classic from Broadway’s Golden Age a production with beauty and heart.

Dorothy Andries is a local free-lance writer.

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