Playful Theatre Productions is a 20 year old community theatre company with an unusual structure. It has four permanent members, four energetic and highly committed women, who produce two shows every year at the Kelsey Theatre on the campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, N. J. They comprise one of twelve resident companies sharing the venue. They say, “We try to do shows that are fun, audience-friendly, and give all different kinds of people the opportunity to perform in a supportive, friendly environment.” And that’s what they’ve done with depth, dazzle and pluck in their current production of CAMELOT.
The first thing to say is the singing is glorious. The ensemble singing is magnificent, and that’s not easy with so many simply outstanding solo voices, including Kate McCabe as the water nymph Nimue whose voice is as magical as her character. She is typical of the kind of surprise you wil find in this production—gems of brilliance studding a very well-known story.
William Kamps is a wonderful, versatile Arthur struggling to keep thinking and passionate about justice trumping force. His recognition that reason is double-edged as he bares his pain in his solliloquy to Excaliber brought not a few kleenex out of pockets in the audience. And his singing voice is strong and beautiful.
Kami Matthews as Guenevere wins us from the moment she appears, delivering “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood” with impish innocence and lighting the stage with angry sparks as she stands down the arrogant Lancelot when they first meet. And her voice, well, I’m running out of ways to say fabulous. An absolutely first rate musical theatre voice.
One more mention, and that is for Dominick Sannelli as Mordred whose character movement is so naturally snake-like as to bring on involuntary shudders at his unctuous evil. He sings, dances and acts the socks off the part. A real standout in a supporting role.
It is not a perfect production. I have two notes. The first is about a set piece, a truly beautiful set piece looking like a ten-foot stained glass window frame stationed upstage center throughout. When it works, it works beautifully. The staging flows seamlessly into a triangle with Arthur lit in front of the stained glass which symbolizes the sanctity of his intentions while Guenevere is lit down stage left and Lancelot lit downstage right, creating a stage-picture which perfectly illustrated the tragic struggles going on in the plot.
But there are numerous stage pictures in which this beautiful set piece is an odd distraction. The first scene takes place in the woods, and there is this beautiful stained glass window piece standing there like a shrine. It didn’t seem to belong in the scene. It drew focus and confused my eye a number of times through the play.
The second, and more serious, note has to do with the incident in the story which provokes the major turning point in the plot—Lancelot’s ressurection of Lionel after the joust. Lionel is dead stage left. Lancelot enters stage right and takes a walk across the width of the stage, not in any particular hurry, bends down beside Lionel and, before you could say shoe-shine, Lionel was up and gone. There didn’t seem to be a lot of anguish or effort on Lancelot’s part, as though he were performing his normal, Tuesday ressurection.. This significant moment passed too quickly and without clearly communicated emotional content.
But that’s it. Just two. And those are not deal breakers. This show is worth the price of the ticket and then some. If you want a delicious retelling of the Arthur legend with beautifully rendered music and flashing gems of brilliance provided by a marvelously talented cast, see this show. What’s not there will make no difference as you step out of the theatre enchanted and inspired.
Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Lowe
Directed by Frank Ferrara
thru October 30
Playful Theatre Productions
at the Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Rd.
West Windsor, N.J. 08550