`Camelot' to begin reign at Brooklyn Park theater

Musical: Broadway classic will have an extended run at Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts.

March 15, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pasadena Theatre Company's production of Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot" opens tomorrow night at Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts in Brooklyn Park -- the first show in the main theater of the new arts center to have an extended run.

"Camelot" boasts a cast of 45, with a 14-piece orchestra in the pit, for its four-weekend stand.

The 23-year-old Pasadena Theatre Company has staged shows over the past five years at Baldwin Hall, Woods Community Center, and Humanities Hall at Anne Arundel Community College -- at the latter, PTC President Sharon Steele produced shows such as "Jekyll and Hyde," "Godspell," "I Hate Hamlet" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

Steele dreamed of a permanent home for PTC, with adequate rehearsal space. To her delight, it is now one of two resident theater companies at Chesapeake Center.

A executive producer of "Camelot," she is savoring the luxury of having room on site to build sets, and "enough backstage space for costumes to be hung for each actor, with two sewing machines set up so that final touches can be added to the many wonderful costumes that are a very important part of this show."

Long associated with PTC as artistic director, veteran actor Chuck Richards is equally delighted that PTC has settled into its new home. He is director of "Camelot" and plays King Arthur.

"CCCA will be a source of theatrical arts for the neighboring community," Richards said, "and because of its accessibility to the Beltway, not just to Anne Arundel County but to the larger community as well. It's going to be a great place for people to get involved to come and learn and develop their own talents. We're all excited about the new facility and the possibilities are tremendous for the audience we can reach and the new people we can draw in to see live theater."

Richards considers Arthur "a wonderful role, because as an actor you can show a whole range of emotions, and you get a chance to take the character and develop it in front of the audience. Arthur is a tremendous character to play -- starts off as almost a boy and he matures into this leader with great vision.

"It's always challenging to direct and act, but I've played Arthur so often -- probably 200 times -- and know the lines pretty well. So it makes it easier to concentrate on directing. We have a very good veteran cast with a lot of experience, and our musical director, Eileen Eaton, is doing a wonderful job with the orchestra. They are sounding really beautiful in the theater."

Richards adds, "`Camelot' is a show where we should be loyal to the original, because it is timeless. The story expresses the values that we need today -- to do things right, treat people in a fair way. This is a timeless message."

Eaton said, "The score is one of my favorites of all the big musicals. The melodies are lovely -- very singable and easily remembered -- and the orchestration is wonderful. From a musical standpoint, the greatest challenge in performing this show is meeting the expectations of the audience, who've heard these melodies performed and will come to the theater with preconceptions of how they will sound."

Production manager Dave Duvall, who plays Lancelot, says: "Not a lot of local theater companies still do live music, so this is something special we are trying to keep alive. Another exciting thing is the sheer number of people involved. We've had to scale back our productions the past couple of years at the community college. Now we've got almost 100 people involved in this show between the actors, crew, orchestra and production staff."

"Camelot" opened on Broadway in December 1960 with a cast that included Richard Burton as Arthur, Robert Goulet as Lancelot and Julie Andrews as Guenevere. Based on the Arthurian legend, the story follows Arthur from a young man awaiting the arrival of bride Guenevere through his reign over the kingdom.

The score includes "If Ever I Would Leave You," "I Loved You Once in Silence," "How to Handle a Woman" and the title song.

Among the principal roles, Guenevere is played by Shawn Marie Diddy, Merlyn by PTC veteran actor Anthony Anzalone and Mordred by Jason Kimmell.

"Camelot" runs through April 8, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Tickets are $10 for children, students and seniors; $12 for PTC and CCCA members; and $15 for nonmembers. For reservations or information, call Chesapeake Center at 410-636-6597.

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