Musicals Blog

Camelot - Lerner and Loewe

by Claire J Rottenberg

In 1960, after the enormous success of "My Fair Lady," the Lerner and Loewe musical "Camelot" opened on Broadway. The play, based on the T.H. White book, "The Once and Future King," about the legendary King Arthur and his kingdom of Camelot, had a long history before making its way to Broadway. Tryouts started in Toronto and the original play was so long that evening performances ended long after most people's bedtime. It was cut by an hour and a half before it went to Boston and additional numbers were cut prior to the Broadway opening.

The original 1960 Broadway version of "Camelot" starred Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. It had an impressive supporting cast that included a young Robert Goulet, Roddy McDowell and John Cullum. "Camelot" ran for 873 performances.

"Camelot" has some of Lerner and Loewe's most beautiful songs. "If Ever I Would Leave You" became a popular hit song and it helped launch the career of Robert Goulet. The score includes songs with meaningful lyrics, such as "How to Handle a Woman" ("simply love her"), and some with humorous lyrics, such as "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight."

"Camelot" is the story of King Arthur, Lady Guenevere, Sir Lancelot, and the kingdom of Camelot. King Arthur decides to change the ways of living in Camelot by creating a peaceful society where disputes are settled by courts and laws instead of with swords and duels. Lancelot comes from France to serve in King Arthur's civilized court and he and Arthur become close friends. Eventually, Guenevere and Lancelot fall in love and Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son, uses the romance to overthrow King Arthur's civilized kingdom of Camelot.

The movie version of "Camelot" was released in 1967 and it starred Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and an unknown Italian actor, Franco Nero. The film version was not a success, although it retained most of Lerner and Loewe's wonderful score and it had a story that was particularly well-suited for film. I've written an article comparing the film versions of "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot," explaining why I believe "Camelot" failed as a film and you can download a PDF copy of it.

Movie Musical Success: What Are the Key Factors?

Learn more about the movie version of Camelot