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Camelot: White castle 

Aurora Theatre makes its debut in new Lawrenceville space

Having spent a decade in Duluth and most of its 11th season in a series of interim spaces in Lawrenceville, Aurora Theatre finally claims its new, permanent playhouse with a production of the musical Camelot. By casting artistic director Anthony Rodriguez as King Arthur, the show feels more like a coronation than the inaugural performance of Aurora's Lawrenceville playhouse, nicknamed "The Castle." It's definitely a venue fit for a king, or at least the regent of a midsize suburban theater company.

In Camelot, lyricist Alan Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe followed My Fair Lady with a magical tale of round tables and romantic triangles based on T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Rodriguez gives an ingratiating performance, capturing both Arthur's idealism and his self-deprecating humor. In the witty lyrics to "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight," Arthur confesses to prenuptial jitters. As his wife, Guenevere, Marcie Millard displays a lovely singing voice and snappy comic timing, while Bradley Bergeron, bedecked in chain mail, seems born to the dashing role of Lancelot.

Nevertheless, Camelot remains a complex, strange play, with sparkling repartee and bantering musical duets set in a tragic context about the corruption of chivalry and the rise and fall of civilizations. Directed by Freddie Ashley, Aurora's Camelot should be replete with contemporary resonances, but feels like merely a conventional, overly sanitized staging of the show. The action features violence but no blood, adultery but no heat. Guenevere leads the young lords and ladies in the song "The Lusty Month of May," but you can probably find more lust at band camp. Bergeron never conveys the depth of Lancelot's guilty conscience, while usurping Mordred (Brandon O'Dell) never emerges as more than a "medieval delinquent."

With an 18-member cast and a regal, two-story set, Camelot proves to be Aurora's biggest production and a suitable showcase to the new playhouse. At times, however, the surroundings command your attention more confidently than the action. You're struck less by the quality of the choreography than the proximity of the performance space to the 200-seat main floor. Ironically, Aurora's mammoth, luxuriant burgundy curtain turns out to be every bit as memorable, if not more so, than the action on the other side of it.

Camelot. Through June 24. Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. Aurora Theatre, 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. 770-476-7926. www.auroratheatre.com.

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