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A couple of seasons back, the trend in theater (at least on and off Broadway) was the production of "deconstructed" shows and revivals.

I've never learned what "deconstructed" exactly meant - and several local directors I've visited with weren't sure, either.But if it has anything to do with scaling back and using less scenery (and focusing more on the script itself), then the Pages Lane Theatre is mounting what could probably be considered a deconstructed version of "Camelot."

And King Arthur's sword-carrying knights aren't the only ones involved with whacking and slicing. Director Ralph G. Rodgers has done considerable whacking away at what is normally an insufferably long second act, eliminating some inessential dialogue and music. Once the pacing picks up, this "Camelot" should come in at slightly over two and one-half hours. It ran closer to three on opening night.

Count your blessings. The original show, in its pre-Broadway tryouts, was a cumbersome four hours long!

All too often, the real substance of this Lerner & Loewe musical, especially the darker tone of the second act, gets lost in a maze of pretty scenery. But once Lancelot has been acknowledged as a true knight of the Round Table, the story shifts into more shadowy twists than a game of Dungeons and Dragons, what with Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot's adulturous relationship, mischevious Mordred's revenge, the revelation of King Arthur's own tawdry secret (that he sired Mordred years before, albeit under a mystical spell), forays into sorcery and the tragic downfall of Camelot.

Ah, but the first act is all sweetness and romance - reluctant King Arthur puzzling over his future . . . Guinevere enticing the knights and maidens into frolicking around in celebration of "The Lusty Month of May" . . . the arrival of slightly loopy King Pellinore (surely one of the grandest comedy roles in musical theater) . . . and the momentous occasion when that most arrogant of wannabe knights, Frenchman Lancelot du Lac, makes his entrance into Arthur's mythical realm.

Rodgers has a strong cast of performers in the leading roles and a fine chorus of robust young knights and maidens.

Because the production is double-cast, there may be some shuffling around from performance to performance.

On opening night, Arthur and Guenevere were played by Craig Stephenson and Diane H. Hall, both perfectly suited to these two demanding roles. (On other nights you might get Dave Petersen and Kathi Pike.)

Clif Cole, also one of the region's best performers, was also superb as Lancelot, with Bob Walk-ing-shaw in fine form as Pellie, and Mark Whitlock as the energetic and sinister Mordred. (These roles are being shared on other nights by Steve Evans, David J. Madsen and Dave Marsden.)

Suzanne Carling's costumes were both regal and colorful.

Accompaniment was provided by piano and percussion only (Judy Knowles and Merrill Moore).

"Camelot" contains one of Lerner & Loewe's richest scores. Beyond that, it also conveys a pretty potent message about the ramifications of immoral behavior - and that even the best of intentions have a way of going awry.

The pacing was a little sluggish on opening night, but this should quickly improve as the actors settle into the show.

Rodgers has also shifted the intermission to immediately following the jousting matches, which seems to work very well. (Most other productions delay it until after Lancelot's investiture ceremony.)

- Sensitivity rating: A few slightly bawdy references (typically British); may be a little too mature for younger children.