MIDVALE — I am a certified Camelot geek. My mother called me Guinevere all the time when I was growing up because “Guinevere” is the Welsh version of my name, Jennifer. At least once a week my mother had us listen to Lerner and Lowe’s Broadway version of the show with Julie Andrews as Guinevere, Richard Burton as King Arthur, and Robert Goulet as the valiant and ultimately adulterous Lancelot. As a girl, I wanted to be Julie Andrews. As an adult, I still do.
So, I approached Salty Dinner Theater’s King Arthur and Lancelot—For the Love of Guinevere with high hopes and, I admit, high expectations. For the most part, my wishes came true. I must note that I am a Salty Dinner Theater groupie. I love their shows, their energy, their friendliness, and their professionalism. Apparently, I’m not the only one. In the year I’ve been a groupie, they have risen from obscurity to selling out almost every show. That’s impressive!
This evening’s performance was at Joe Morley’s in Midvale, and the venue was probably one of the few concerns I had with this evening’s event. Everyone else seemed to like it, but I have attended Salty Dinner Theater productions at Old Spaghetti Factory in Orem as well as the former location of Madeline’s, and I liked those venues much better. Joe Morley’s had somewhat of a conference room feel to it, the lighting was stark, and I thought the food, though delicious, was overpriced ($15 for adults).
The performance I attended had every table filled, and a boisterous group it was. As with every SDT production, the cast invited audience members to come and participate, and this show had more audience participation than any of their other shows I’ve seen. I think with all the activities the cast asked the audience to do, there were probably 15 people who either played a kazoo, said a line, became a Knight of the Round Table, or became one of the Village People (an inside joke I won’t explain, but it isn’t what you think). Getting people to participate is a fun way to energize the audience, and SDT does this amazingly well. Could it be that people that go to dinner theater have a bit of a ham in them? I’m not sure, but every audience member who joins in always has fun and gets a few laughs. What’s not to like?
Tonight’s cast handled the chaos so well you would have thought it was all scripted. I know how difficult it is to not only stay on task and in character, remembering all your lines and blocking, but also interact with the crowd on the fly. It’s hard to do and even harder to do well. Scott Andrew, in his second show with SDT, played King Arthur with royal charisma that made him my personal favorite of the night. Tonia Sayer played the Lady of the Lake. I’ve seen Ms. Sayer in several SDT productions, including my all-time favorite role of hers as Dorothy in their recent The Wizard of Oz. She was absolutely delightful as always in this show. It might be hard to play the guy that tries to steal Arthur’s woman from him, but Allen Smith as Lancelot was wonderful. He especially has a very confident way of carrying himself, and his one-liners were awesome.
Our own Tony Porter as Merlin was terrific. Merlin carries around a Magic 8 Ball, a prop that could have easily gotten corny, but Porter kept it fresh and funny. Jonathan Sherman Tate played Maleagant, a rather unsavory traitor. He was quite entertaining, and I especially liked his banter with our table before the show. He’s a very personable fellow and I look forward to seeing more of him in future SDT shows. Megan Valerie Tholen may be the most perfectly cast Guinevere I could imagine. With her delicate beauty, her amazing voice, and her diligent acting skills, she fulfilled my image of what Guinevere should be. Ms. Tholen truly made my night.
The evening’s script was written by Daniel Brassard, who produced a work that was tight, had numerous laughs, and sincere drama. Beth Bruner as director and Sircy Maggio as stage manager round out the SDT’s staff. Both of these two women contributed greatly to the power, energy, and delight we continue to enjoy from this group.
Although the evening was mostly wonderful, I do have a few minor criticisms. First, I wish that the cast members had used British accents. Also, there was also a slow motion knife fight that went too long. But these were minor drawbacks to what was, in general, a great evening.
King Arthur and Lancelot—For the Love of Guinevere is a wonderful Valentine’s season romantic comedy, and if you haven’t gone to a Salty Dinner Theater performance, think about seeing this one. And if take your fun friends, you’ll all have a wonderful time.