The Lakeside Players’ most recent panto, Camelot, is a zany exploration of Arthurian myth and pop music. The story begins in the early years of Camelot, before the Knights of the Round Table and before Prince Arthur is able to overcome his own social awkwardness when it comes to women. With his wife-to-be Guinevere already on her way to Camelot, Arthur and his friends must find a way to woo this woman who is not particularly happy over the fact that she’s been given away in marriage.
It has been awhile since I’ve seen a panto, but I enjoyed having the chance to sit down and enjoy the simple humour of the evening. Entertaining throughout, the production noticeably picks up in the second act, employing a choreography and scripting that is animated and engaging. From the very first musical number, you can tell that the energy and drama is going to be much higher than it was in the first act.
By comparison, the first act tends to feel drawn out, burdened as it is with the introductory task of filling in the audience on everything they should know. The comedy of the first act is also largely rooted in a hesitant social awkwardness which, entertaining as it may be, takes time time to work through.
For a production of this kind, what absolutely floored me was the music. With his band of Medieval Minstrels, musical director Chris Lucas conducts several re-imaginings of pop songs throughout the show. The audience couldn’t help from clapping and singing along. Even when the actors on stage were not actively seeking audience participation, the liveliness of the instrumentals often encouraged them to take the leap regardless.
Of the many different singers in Camelot, Rachel Rumstein, who plays Guinevere’s handmaiden Nell, stands out with her second act duet. Being the companion of the leading lady and the love interest of Laughalot, she seems pigeonholed as a slightly more fleshed out background characters. However, when you hear her voice, you find yourself wishing that she had been given a larger singing role. Her range and vocal presence shows her to be one of the very best singers in the show, perhaps doubling the irony that her one featured song is actually about having such a small part in the production.
Camelot also upholds the pantomime tradition of cross dressing, with a number of actors taking on gender-bent roles, including Jennie Burns as Prince Arthur and Adam Goldberg as Connie Clatterbottom. Without hesitation, Goldberg throws himself into this role and, in many ways, becomes the host of the show with his emphasis on audience interactions. Loud and belligerent, he spices up the show with a grand stage presence.
This show could not have been the same without the efforts of the childrens’ chorus. Ranging in age from around 8-15, you can see the amount of practice that these kids have put into the memorization of their parts and dance choreography. Of course, some of the most priceless moments are still the less-than-scripted antics that the younger ones manage to get up to on stage.
While Camelot only had a short run, the Lakeside Players’s pantos are worth keeping an eye on, especially if you’re looking for something fun and engaging for the whole family.