Proposition: “Camelot” has always been one of my favorite musicals; it had been quite some time since I’d seen it on stage, so I was looking forward to seeing North Fork Community Theatre’s current presentation. Resolved: I was not disappointed.
“Camelot,” with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, is based on the novel “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White. It is the story of King Arthur who, when he meets his intended bride, Guenevere, is inspired to be the most wonderful king who ever sat on a throne. In an era when the rules support the concept of “might is right,” with knights fighting and pillaging, he conceives the idea of a civilized world of “might for right” and chivalry, with knights protecting honor and justice.
Arthur creates the legendary Round Table, which becomes renowned across the land. This attracts the radically religious Lancelot, who travels from France to devote his life and soul to serve Arthur. Most of us know what happens to Camelot when Guenevere and Lancelot fall in love. If you don’t, well, you will just have to see the play.
Richard Gardini plays Arthur’s teacher, Merlyn, with much more youthful vigor than you would expect from his ancient appearance. But then again, Merlyn is growing backwards — “youthening” — and can “remember the future.”
Peter Peterson portrays Mordred, the bastard son who arrives to stir up trouble in the court, with swagger and sneer, and he offers his wickedly twisted take on life in his solo “The Seven Deadly Virtues.”
King Pellinore is an old friend of Arthur’s who wanders into the realm lost and homeless, and Rick Peters provides depth to this robust but daft “Pelly.”
Marilee Scheer brings a comical touch to the traditionally evil Morgan LeFey, who is easily led by Mordred with his lure of tasty treats. Young Ben Eager, as both a page and Tom of Warick, is adorable and earnestly focused.
Three key knights are portrayed perfectly by Matt Tuthill (Sir Dinadan), Kyle Breitenbach (Lionel) and Patrick O’Brien (Sagramore) and provide excellent choral support, as do Kelly Cassidy, as Lady Anne, and Jen Eager, Joyce Stevens, Aria Saltini and Victoria Carroll as ladies in waiting.
The ultimate success or failure of any production of “Camelot” ultimately falls to the triad of leads, and those here are more than up to the task.
Kelsey Cheslock is lovely as Guenevere. Her voice is angelic and she imbues the queen with a playful, youthful energy. Brett Chizever brings is own sublime voice to the table as he always does, but plays Lancelot as a bit more of a clown. He does, however, still offer the intensity and polish we have come to expect in all his work. Singing together, they bring on the goosebumps.
Rusty Kransky has played Arthur before in other local productions, so I expected a fine performance from him. I found his take on Arthur this time around more subtle, moving and satisfying than ever. It doesn’t really need saying, but I will anyway — his singing is as much a pleasure as always.
The combined efforts of director Caroline Ciochetto, Mr. Kransky as assistant director, rehearsal music director Nancy Deegan and production music director Jeff Wentz have contributed to this most enjoyable production, with its fine acting and singing across the board, and producer Babette Cornine has put together a terrific theatrical team. The orchestra is skilled and complements the singers nicely. Diane Peterson outdoes herself with the costume design, which is beautiful and realistic. The set by Dee Martin and lighting design by David Scheer also enhance the illusion.
Proposition: You enjoy theater that combines quality performances and beautiful music with humor, action and romance. Resolved: You make sure you don’t miss NFCT’s production of “Camelot”!
North Fork Community Theatre
12700 Old Sound Ave., Mattituck
Performances continue Thursdays-Sundays through May 31. Show times: Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 298-NFCT (6328) or visit nfct.com.