Saturday, April 13, 2013

REVIEW: Rising Star's "Camelot" is "One Shining Moment" for Rising Stars

This beloved musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe is playing now through April 27th the Rising Star Theater in Three Rivers Mall, just off I-5 in Kelso. It is directed by Jueanne Meyers, with vocal direction by Laurel Moore, choreography by Kristy Larson and piano accompaniment by Greg Moore.

The Tale

All photos provided.
There have many written and filmed versions of this classic legend of Camelot and King Arthur. It all began with a long poem by Tennyson. The best of the books being T.H. White’s, "The Once and Future King." But even such famous writers as Steinbeck with his "King Arthur and the Round Table" and Twain’s "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" weighed in with their takes on this iconic tale.

As for films, there was, of course, the movie of the musical (with Richard Harris) and Disney’s animated, "Sword and the Stone," but the best was the non-musical, "Excalibur," by John Boorman.

The story is about a young lad named Wart, a.k.a. Arthur (Chance Stewart), who accidentally pulls an iconic sword from a stone and becomes King of all England. He is tutored by Merlin, a wizard, who lives backward in time. But Merlin becomes trapped in an enchantment before he has time to tell Wart of the trials that lay ahead of him.

As King, it is proper to take a wife, and so a marriage is arranged to Guinevere (Stephanie Biwer). But, like all good romances, by a chance meeting, they happen to first like then love each other. And some grand, novel plans are instituted during this time such as a Round Table where no one is at the head, and a policy of Might for Right in which force is used only to preserve goodness.

The King’s best knight and friend is Lancelot (Zack Sarmiento) who, unfortunately, falls in love with his Queen. And, if that isn’t bad enough, Arthur’s evil step-son, Mordred (Nathan Meyers), appears and wrecks havoc on this enchanted kingdom. All seems lost and a battle ensues, but a young lad, Tom of Warwick (Jeffrey Meyers) is sent out to spread the word of this noble experiment in tolerance and compassion called Camelot.

The Telling

This is a heady undertaking for any troupe—especially for a community theater—as it has a large cast,
many settings, difficult music and songs, and period costumes. The Rising Star production plays in a cavernous space with no micing and the seating is rather uncomfortable, but, with that said, this production does have redeeming qualities. After all, what theaters or actors did not have ragged roots entrenched at their beginnings in barns, rooftops, coffee houses, tents, etc.? It is called growing up and this group certainly seems to have a supportive community (a sold-out house) and enthusiastic actors willing to learn.

The singing voice of Biwer, as the Queen, is one of the highlights of the show; she easily sells the songs she trills. Sarmiento, as Lancelot, also gives a good account of himself in the singing and acting department. Meyers, as the oily Mordred, does well with such a slimy character. One feels they might need a bath after just being around him. Even in the small role of Tom, Master Jeffrey definitely shows some acting chops as he encompasses this pivotal role. And Maggie Stewart does a nice turn as the enchantress, Morgan Le Fey, Mordred’s aunt.

A real find, though, is Nic Portwood, as Pellinore, a sort-of surrogate Merlin/father-figure for Arthur. He explodes onto the stage with all the energy of a locomotive. His comic timing and physical antics are super, reminding me a bit of an actor from the Monty Python gang. He is a real find and his pacing should be adopted by the whole cast.

Unfortunately the key character, Stewart as Arthur, seemed to be struggling with lines. His singing voice is pleasant, but not as forceful as the part demands. And his acting lacks energy and urgency at times. It could possibly be chalked up to opening night jitters, but time will tell.

Kudos to Greg Moore  for providing the whole score on the piano and doing it well. The dancing segments by Kristy Larson are well done, especially in the May Day number and with the dancing sprites. And the costumes, designed by the director, were appropriately colorful and effective. The Director (Meyers) kept the story moving forward, but the cast needs more energy and the cues need to be picked up better; things seemed to drag a bit in places.

Again, this is a noble effort and has many things going for it and, if they continue to move forward, as I’m sure they will, they have a solid base on which to build their dream. It’s worth seeing, as a lot of hard effort is evident.

Show times are Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. For tickets ($10 adults, $8 seniors, $5 children) and more information, go to

If you do choose to see it, tell them Dennis sent you.

By Dennis J. Sparks, Guest Reviewer

All photos provided.

NOTE: Longview's Stageworks Northwest is playing the musical version of "The Secret Garden" which was reviewed at the same time by Gregory E. Zschomler; that review can be found here.

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