‘Camelot’ Is a Timeless Tale

Aaron Sorkin’s revision of the Lerner and Loewe classic successfully revives the medieval musical



“Camelot” opened on April 13 and will play at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center until Sept. 3.


For centuries, the legend of King Arthur has enchanted audiences worldwide. From books, to plays, to films, to TV shows, the tale has been adapted and re-adapted. The 1960 musical adaptation of “Camelot” by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe opened in its latest revival on April 13 at the Lincoln Center Theater. 

“Camelot” first debuted on Broadway over 60 years ago, but Aaron Sorkin’s revised 2023 rendition speaks to a global desire for peace and equality. Its plot resolves with a continual thread of hope that can’t help but make the audience feel a desperate sense of optimism.

In “Camelot,” King Arthur (Andrew Burnap) strives to achieve justice, peace and equality and lead his citizens by these principles. The first step to creating a peaceful Camelot is a marriage alliance between Princess Guinevere of France (Phillipa Soo) and King Arthur. Guinevere wishes to be a free woman, but when encountered with Lord Lancelot (Jordan Donica), who ventures to Camelot to join King Arthur’s knights of the roundtable, her loyalties to her king and crown are tested, along with the ideals of the roundtable.

King Arthur charms Princess Guinevere with a song about Camelot’s weather — “Camelot” — and evident perfection. Again, King Arthur speaks to the precarious control he holds over Camelot and Burnap to that power has on stage. Princess Guinevere realizes this plea for help after Merlin, King Arthur’s adviser, abruptly dies, while King Arthur also appeals to all “Camelot” has to offer in the means of adventure and “happy ever-aftering.” Thus, Princess Guinevere becomes Queen Guinevere, more of a “business partner” to King Arthur, helping him to strategize the roundtable and a just Camelot.

Burnap and Soo have a palpable onstage chemistry that carries the story. Despite playing the wife of King Arthur during medieval times, Soo is able to contrast the time period with Guinevere’s more contemporary independent fervor in tandem with humor and intellect, carefully entwined into the love triangle and political tensions within “Camelot.” 

Soo’s character is one that transcends generations — invigorated with a liveliness evident in moments such as “The Lusty Month of May,” where she traipses around swaying with citizens of Camelot of all standings. Her flowy, off-the-shoulder, peony-pink dress and jewel-toned velvet ensembles throughout the show (designed by Jennifer Moeller) flaunt Queen Guinevere’s multidimensionality and her rightful place leading a kingdom as she is the brains behind the king. Soo’s Queen Guinevere highlights an unequivocal regard for freedom and fairness; she presents her character with formidable power that matches her vocal range.

Most of “Camelot’s” strength originates in the balance between bubbling wit and weary love and war.

Sorkin’s rendition of “Camelot” enlightens a desperate hope for a society led with strength and justice in mind, by a  man who wants to wield power in a just way that may not be possible without delving into corruption and danger. Burnap portrays Arthur as a character that is true to the young king that he is. Queen Guinevere continuously humbles him to be simply a man who had a sword in a stone loosened by 9,999 people before him.

Burnap’s attractiveness undoubtedly adds to his suitability for the role and privilege to determine an uncorrupted future, despite his fumbling mistakes. My personal judgment of his performance is clouded, but his devotion to Soo was not clear enough in his mannerisms. For a stereotypical white hero, situated to save the world (Camelot) and to get the girl (Guinevere), he seemed physically distant from these aspirations, yet desperate dialogically; Burnap aptly portrayed the writing but is better situated for far more subversive storytelling.

Most of “Camelot’s” strength originates in the balance between bubbling wit and weary love and war. The stage movements of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Lord Lancelot allowed all that was unsaid between the three characters to speak the loudest — these actors found strength in their lightness of song but also in strategic silences and sidelong glances. Lancelot’s longing, however, was not as evident until the ballad “If ever I would leave you,” sung urgently and earnestly by Donica, knocked down Lancelot’s walls with each operatic note.

The minor pitfalls of the script and magnetism of the actors mimic that of the tensions between love, lust and politics. Therefore, “Camelot” lands as a poetic and classic commentary on following one’s heart despite all dangers.

“Camelot” will play at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center until Sept. 3. You can view show schedules and purchase tickets on the Vivian Beaumont Theater’s website.