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.
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.
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.
Information and reservations: Chesapeake Center, 410-636-6597.