It’s good to be the queen
Mollie Vogt-Welch has always had big shoes to fill. She’s the daughter of two singers, the niece of two actors, and now she’s playing Guenevere in Camelot, a role once held by, and often synonymous with, Julie Andrews. But by all appearances, she’s filling those shoes out nicely.
A native of Potsdam in upstate New York, Vogt-Welch got her first taste of acting as a recurring member of the local theater’s summer stock productions. She eventually earned a bachelor’s in fine arts in musical theater in 2005. And within a year of graduation, she landed the role of Guenevere, a character she describes as “fun, sneaky, sexy and innocent.” Her many rave reviews include one from the Duluth News Tribune, in which she was called “drop dead beautiful with a voice even more so.”
Based on The Once and Future King, English novelist T. H. White’s retelling of the legend, Camelot was adapted for the stage by Alan Jay Lerner (who also wrote the song lyrics), with music composed by Frederick Loewe. Along with Julie Andrews, the 1960 Tony Award-winning production also starred Richard Burton as King Arthur and Robert Goulet as Sir Lancelot.
The story opens as King Arthur, played by Bob Brown, prepares to meet Guenevere, who has come to Camelot for her arranged marriage to the king. Although Guenevere initially resists the arrangement, the two eventually fall in love. Meanwhile, Arthur establishes the Knights of the Round Table as a way to keep peace in his kingdom. The knights are charged with righting injustices and protecting the kingdom’s less fortunate citizens.
Sir Lancelot, played by Matthew Posner, hears of the Knights of the Round Table, and comes from France to join them. But although Arthur has become his best friend, Lancelot falls deeply in love with Guenevere. And while she still loves her husband, Guenevere’s passion for Lancelot is too strong to resist. Eventually, their affair is exposed, and Guenevere is sentenced to burn at the stake, but not before war breaks out, ruining Arthur’s dream of a peaceful kingdom.
Mollie Vogt-Welch says that playing a character like Guenevere isn’t easy. “What she does, the sin she commits … how do you make that likeable? Luckily the script and music give me lots of opportunities. There are so many beautiful scenes with Arthur, and you see how devoted they are to each other, and how much of a team they are. Then she meets Lancelot, and you know she can’t help but fall for him. The audience can see how heartbreaking it is for her. That, I think, makes her likeable.”
Guenevere is also a challenge because she’s a young girl faced with discovering herself and coming into her own as a queen. “There’s a status to portray, and the audience has to buy that she’s a queen, and not just a girl in pretty clothes,” Vogt-Welch said. “It’s challenging to show her growth into a woman in the end.”
And those pretty clothes are quite something, she says; not only are the costumes extremely ornate, but each character has a different costume for every scene. The unique set is also a challenge. The stage is raked, or tilted, so that as actors move downstage toward the audience, they’re actually moving downhill. It’s not easy to adjust to, says Vogt-Welch, but like everything else about this show, the results are nothing short of dramatic.