Camelot, Light Opera Works, at Northwestern University, Cahn Auditorium. This 1960 musical, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s final collaboration, can be a tough nut to crack. Based on British novelist T.H. White’s masterful retelling of the King Arthur legend, The Once and Future King, the work juxtaposes fantasy and fairy-tale romance with a powerful tragic vision of the endless struggle between utopian ideals of love and honor and base instincts of lust and vengefulness. To give the show its full due as both drama and tunefest requires strong performers guided by a director willing to probe the story’s subtext as well as revel in the lyrical songs and whimsical comedy.

Dominic Missimi’s staging for Light Opera Works falls short of Camelot’s potential. New York City Opera veteran Richard White makes a fine Arthur, alternately dashing and diffident as he struggles to keep the Camelot dream alive despite his wife’s affections for his best friend and his bastard son’s evil scheming. But Amber Nicole Dilger’s shallow Guenevere and James Sasser’s earnest but unimpressive Lancelot blunt their points on the sexual triangle, and Andrew Hotz’s Mordred comes off like a refugee from a cheap tour of The Rocky Horror Show.

The creamy strings and mellow brass of conductor Edward Zelnis’s orchestra–larger and lusher than today’s average synthesizer-heavy pit band–are well suited to the gorgeous score. But they’re undermined by a heavy-handed, lounge-band-quality rhythm section.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rich Foreman.