Young King Arthur, a musical for family audiences that features a score by local composer Scott Zesch, was selected as the winner of the 2010 National Children’s Theatre Festival. In conjunction with the competition, the show received a production at Actors’ Playhouse in Miami that runs through May 29. Zesch and his co-writers, Marc Castle and Jon Shear, were given the award in person following a performance of the show on May 2.
The Miami company is presenting the second full production of the play. Young King Arthur was first produced by New York’s Vital Theatre Company in 2006. Before that, the show was developed in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop in New York, which Zesch was invited to join in 1990.
Young King Arthur tells the story of the legendary king during his boyhood, from the time he pulls the sword from the stone until he resolves the first challenges to his authority. Since the various retellings of the Arthurian legend do not cover this period in the young king’s life, the playwrights created an original story in which Arthur must choose between "the power of the sword" and "the power of the heart."
Zesch modeled his musical score after old English folk tunes and country dances. The orchestration features instrumentation consistent with those styles, including a recorder and an accordion. The New York Times review of the initial production noted that "Scott Zesch’s delightful score … combines Broadway-style melodies with medieval touches."
Zesch, a Mason resident, and Castle, a playwright and lyricist who lives in New York, also worked together on the full-length musical Hollywoodland. It was performed in concert in 2006 at Curtain Call Theatre in Connecticut and received a developmental reading at Emerging Artists Theatre in New York in 2007. Shear, the third collaborator on Young King Arthur, is a screenwriter and director who is based in Los Angeles. His 2000 film Urbania received the highest award at nine film festivals and was named to over 35 "Top Ten Films of the Year" lists.
Zesch’s music has been featured in a number of venues in New York, including an AboutFace Theatre Company revue, the BMI showcase, and the National Music Theater Network’s Songbook series. He also contributed songs to stage productions at Texas A&M and Harvard.
Local audiences may recall Zesch’s musical drama Texas Forever, which was performed by the Mason Concert Chorale in 1986 as a Texas Sesquicentennial project. Texas Forever was based on the true story of the making of a private agreement of friendship between the Comanche people and the first German immigrants to the Hill Country in 1847.
Zesch attributes much of his love of music to his childhood teacher, Sally Loeffler of Mason. He later received private instruction in music theory and harmony at Harvard. His instructors at the BMI Workshop in New York included the award-winning theatre composer Maury Yeston (Nine, Titanic).
Young King Arthur is being presented as part of the fifteenth National Children’s Theatre Festival under the direction of Earl Maulding. The festival is an annual event at Actors’ Playhouse, one of Florida’s major regional theatres.