Raleigh’s Burning Coal Theatre Company kicks off their production of Camelot December 5. The musical tells the legend of King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and the sword in the stone, accompanied by some modern musical twists. Now in its twenty-third season, Camelot may seem like a surprising choice for the nonprofit theater, which typically showcases productions around weightier topics (see: the recent staging of The Container, an immersive story about immigration in which the audience watches from inside a freight shipping container). So what makes Camelot Burning Coal material? Director Jerome Davis says that the show’s themes remain relevant today: issues of economic disparity, the morality of war and the quest for idealism. “At its core, it’s the idea of whether or not human beings are capable of perfection, and what the cost of that is on a person’s soul and community,” says Davis.
Burning Coal is modernizing the show’s music with a rock band accompaniment rather than an orchestra. Davis sees this as replicating the original, speaking to today’s generation the way it first spoke to audiences in the 60s. “Theater survives by new ideas versus relics, to survive you need to produce new works and re-create vintage ones,” says Davis. The goal is for the audience to feel part of the production. With high energy performances and minimalist production values, Burning Coal’s mission is “to make theatre that is experienced, not just seen—we want to make people really feel it,” says Development Director Nathalie Tondeur. Camelot will be Burning Coal’s last production of 2019, but their current season will include two more performances running through April.
Camelot runs December 5-22 with an entirely local cast, and Tondeur says the show is a family-friendly affair. “It’ll be fun for kids, but parents will also have something fun to watch—it’s sure to be a unique experience with something for every generation.”—Simmons Andrews
$25; 224 Polk St.; burningcoal.org