Imprisoned in Shining Armor.Posted: October 29, 2007
Robert Goulet was a good exponent of the booming baritone theatrical style, and not without a sense of humor even in his earliest recorded performances. I have in mind his “C’est Moi” from the Camelot original cast recording. (Click here to hear an excerpt.) The humor in that song requires Lancelot to display an enormous vanity of which he is utterly unselfaware; therefore the actor who portrays and sings him (if he is to give an intelligent performance) has to be very aware of the human tendency toward this foible, yet subtle enough not to telegraph his awareness. (If we sensed the actor was unaware of the irony in the song, we might assume he was as stupid as Lancelot, which would be unfunny and unappealing; and if we sensed him trying too hard to signal that he was in on the joke, that would also destroy the humor. So a very fine line must be trod, which Goulet did well. To do all that, and sing gloriously–well, now you know why the role took him from complete unknown to major star.)
The thing his illness makes me feel right now is that it’s a shame that Goulet couldn’t go on doing what he did well, and instead took on so many parts in the last thirty years in which he denigrated himself and his talents. (Here’s an article from 1996 that gives but one example, but we all remember many of them; Goulet as jerk, self-admitted buffoon, outmoded hack, etc.) In a weird way, it all came out of that very first song, “C’est Moi.” Except now he asked us to believe, for the sake of a laugh, that he was the impossibly vain and stupid Lancelot. If he couldn’t get our respect, he was willing to settle for our derision. Whether the fault was his or the world’s, there should have been a better seat at the round table for him than that.