New center enhances a colorful `Camelot'

Review

Arundel Live

March 22, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The opening of Lerner and Loewe's classic musical "Camelot" last weekend marked Pasadena Theatre Company's arrival at its home in the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, a state-of-the-art facility that easily accommodates this large-scale production.

I'd rank "Camelot" - an ideal choice for the Brooklyn Park's center's first extended run - as the biggest and best show the company has mounted in the past five years.

With its 45-member cast and 14-piece orchestra, creative staging and dazzling special effects, the Pasadena troupe uses all that the 900-seat theater offers in sound, lighting and stage space flexibility. The 23-year-old company now has the space to mount large productions, and the center proves it can present such spectacular shows with distinction.

"Camelot," based on the legend of King Arthur, is a musical of unforgettable Frederick Loewe tunes set to Alan Jay Lerner's witty lyrics.

The 18-number score represents a daunting challenge that was well met by music director Eileen Eaton and the orchestra. On opening night, during the overture, the brass was off momentarily, but soon the musicians recovered and were providing excitement and lifting our spirits as only a live orchestra can.

Director Chuck Richards, who plays King Arthur, assembled a strong cast that generally delivers fine performances. Having played the role at least 200 times, Richards knows every facet of his character, who grows from a naive young man awaiting his bride's arrival to a ruler of inner strength and vision. Richards conveys Arthur's love for his wife and affection for Lancelot - the two people whose love for each other almost destroys his kingdom. Richards' portrayal is enhanced by his impressive singing.

Another company member doing double duty is production manager David Duvall, who is nearly perfect as Lancelot. Easily possessing the best singing voice in the cast, Duvall delivers an inspired "C'est Moi" that reflects his character's insufferable self-righteousness and tedious striving for perfection. Duvall's stunning "If Ever I Would Leave You" provides the show's highest musical moment, and he shows his character's growth from a self-centered young man to a knight embodying the ideals of Arthur's kingdom.

Shawn Marie Diddy is well-cast as Guenevere, adorably girlish when we meet her as Arthur's reluctant bride, later expressing a believable affection for the king and subsequently conveying her character's love for Lancelot. Her scenes with Duvall are charged with an unmistakable chemistry. Diddy has a pleasant singing voice, especially well-suited to "I Loved You Once in Silence." She moves with a dancer's natural grace and is lovely in her regal costumes.

As King Pellinore, company veteran Martin Hays provides high comic relief. Another veteran, Tony Anzalone, is excellent as Arthur's childhood friend Merlyn, a character Anzalone manages to develop fully despite his relatively brief time on stage.

Choreographer Jason Kimmell displays great versatility and astonishing dance skills in "The Lusty Month of May" and is later transformed as Arthur's illegitimate son - the evil Mordred, who plots to take over his father's kingdom. Kimmell delivers a spirited "Seven Deadly Virtues" that nearly stops the show.

The large cast of supporting players delivers what is required and does it handsomely, in the gorgeous costumes designed by Judy Vollmar. Kudos to the set crew for creating a believable, enchanting forest backdrop of depth and dimension.

"Camelot" continues through April 8 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors; $12 for PTC and CCCA members and $15 for nonmembers.

For reservations and information, call Chesapeake Center at 410-636-6597.

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