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by Tony Medley

One of the great joys of living in Los Angeles is the opportunity to see great actors on stage. Another of the great joys is the little known opportunity to see Hollywood Bowl performances on the morning of the performance at a full dress rehearsal. And it’s free!

This morning I read that there was to be a one-time performance of Lerner & Lowe’s “Camelot” at the Bowl tonight, which was sold out. I read it just in time to jump in my car and get to the Bowl. I arrived shortly after the overture, but in time for “What Do the Simple Folks Do.”

There were several hundred others like me. We all were sitting in the boxes, which would cost $110 each tonight. Most of us had brought our lunches. Fortunately, it was an overcast, cool morning, a wonderful day to sit and listen to some of the greatest Broadway music ever written.

Richard Burton’s role as King Arthur was played by non-singer Jeremy Irons. Unlike other roles specially written for non-singers (like “My Fair Lady’s” Henry Higgins), Arthur’s songs have a range of more than a few notes. But Irons, who rehearsed for three weeks solid for this one-time performance, was more than adequate. His acting was superb and his voice captured the plaintiveness of Arthur’s fate.

The drop-dead star of the performance was Broadway’s Tony-nominated Melissa Errico as Guinevere. Unlike the movie’s Vanessa Redgrave, Errico is beautiful and her voice is of operatic quality. Every song she sang had me wishing for encores. With a voice the equal of Errico’s, James Barbour, also from Broadway was Lancelot.

What impressed me was that all these people, the stars, the Hollywood Bowl orchestra, the dancers and the rest of the cast were going through all this work for one single, solitary performance! Think of all the work, all the beautiful costumes, all the choreography that goes into putting on a performance of a Broadway musical. All that work seems justified if it’s for many performances. But, after tonight, all these people will go their separate ways. So sitting in the Bowl, watching all these talented people working their hearts out basically for the love of what they were doing was inspirational.

I never got to see Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Robert Goulet in “Camelot” on Broadway, but I can’t imagine their performance being any better than what I saw this morning. “Camelot” is a play that wasn’t particularly successful in terms of running on Broadway. It was further damaged by the horrible movie that was made of it, even if it did give Richard Harris a new career.

One of my dreams is for some talented Hollywood producer to make Camelot into a film using people who can actually sing and dance. Until then, I’ll have this morning’s performance that will live in my mind along with my memories of the stagings of “South Pacific,” “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and others. I wish I could encourage everyone to go see this, but by the time you read this it will undoubtedly be too late.

Sunday, August 14, 2005