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Queens Chronicle

‘Camelot’ cast hits it out of the castle

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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 10:30 am

Set in the court of the legendary King Arthur, the now-classic musical "Camelot" began its original Broadway run late in 1960, becoming forever linked to the presidency of John Kennedy, whose tenure is often referred to as the Camelot era.

The show is being presented in concert form by Beari Productions in Bayside through May 5.

The songs overflow with one beautiful Frederick Loewe melody after another and Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics are unusually intelligent. Lerner’s book, which tells tales of medieval times and the famed Knights of the Round Table, has often been criticized as being long and disjointed.

In its current incarnation, under the direction of Debbie Bendana, the show has been completely reconceived, eliminating much of the dialogue and replacing it with brief narratives between musical numbers to fill in the basic story line.

The music is allowed to carry the night, and so it does.

Among the streamlined cast of 14, leading lady Candis Alek as Queen Guenivere is outstanding. Her crystalline singing voice effortlessly calls to mind Julie Andrews, who originated the role.

The show has shifted the focus from Arthur to his bride, who is given a half dozen songs to sing. In “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood,” the soon-to-be-queen ponders the uncertainties of marriage. The lilting “The Lusty Month of May” comes to life during a castle outing.

Two ballads, “Before I Gaze at You Again” and “I Loved You Once in Silence,” provide tender moments. Alek does wonders with each.

As Arthur, Jimmy O’Neill, himself the possessor of a wonderful singing voice, shines brightest here in two of the production’s dramatic moments. The first comes during the king’s lengthy monologue, in which he considers how to deal with the love triangle in which he finds himself.

O’Neill proves equally effective when, near play’s end, he commands a young newly knighted boy to spread the story of the “fleeting wisp of glory” that was known as Camelot.

O’Neill and Alek share a musical scene in “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” in which they ponder how the other half lives.

Raymond Bendana, a late addition to the cast, was understandably tentative on opening night in the role of Sir Lancelot, who sings the show’s best-known song, “If Ever I Would Leave You.”

As evil-minded Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, Erik Neilssen has a swell time, particularly in his one major musical contribution, “The Seven Deadly Virtues.”

Victoria Sorrentino, as the spirit Nimue, offers a beautiful rendition of “Follow Me,” as she lures away from Camelot Arthur’s tutor, the magician Merlin (Rene Bendana).

Michael D’Emidio keeps the audience involved as the Narrator, who offers a running commentary without being intrusive.

Musical Director Frank Auriemma, who accompanies the cast on keyboard, has been blessed with an unusually strong ensemble. Good choral work is evidenced in “The Jousts,” one of the show’s little-known songs, and in the rousing “Guinevere,” which outlines the queen’s fate. Auriemma has elicited extreme clarity of diction from all his singers.

The set design is simple but effective. The costumes, particularly for the ladies, are apt and attractive.

On opening night, the lights went up on a performance that was warmly received by an unfortunately sparse audience.

For the earful of music it provides, the show deserves more attention.

‘Camelot’

When: May 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. and May 5 at 3 p.m.

Where: All Saints Church, 214-35 40 Ave., Bayside

Tickets: $18; $16 seniors; $14 students with IDs.

(718) 736-1263

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