Continuing its tradition of lavish production values, the Fullerton Civic Light Opera hits new heights of extravagance with this latest musical adventure, which takes us back to legendary King Arthur's court. From the many spectacular set pieces to the cache of vividly opulent costumes, everything about this show exhibits a regal quality that suits Lerner and Loewe's bittersweet medieval story about Arthur, his queen Guenevere, and his friend and rival Sir Lancelot.
Living up to the promise offered by Dwight Richard Odle's stunning set and Sharell Martin's striking costumes, director Jan Duncan and the cast turn out a polished production that sparkles with energy. Duncan's playfully relaxed direction meshes well with the musical's lighthearted tone. And the talented ensemble reveals a depth of dramatic and vocal talent that highlights the show's moving love story and its memorable, evocative musical score.
In the lead roles of Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot--the tragic characters caught in a love triangle--is a trio of engaging, formidable performers. Brendan Ford as Arthur offers a boyish charm and vulnerability that's appealing and lends an emotional intensity to his character. He also boasts the most consistent vocal talent in this staging, which he shows off best in the jaunty "Camelot" and the gentle love song, "How To Handle a Woman." Though slightly less versatile in portraying his character's emotions, Jeremy Aye as Lancelot is nevertheless a commanding presence onstage. His rich baritone voice is strong and clear, which complements the traits of Lancelot, the valiant knight who joins Arthur's new order of chivalry and ends up falling in love with his queen. Aye is especially effective in Lancelot's two signature songs, the slightly boastful "C'est Moi" and the tender tribute to Guenevere, "If Ever I Would Leave You."
As the final link in the ill-fated triangle, Jennifer Mathews is a beguiling, slightly vixenish Guenevere. Her lilting voice and saucy delivery are a match for Guenevere's somewhat brash personality, evident in her lively rendition of "The Lusty Month of May"--a number that also shows off the talent of choreographer Cate Caplin. Complementing the three leads is a first-rate ensemble that makes up the rest of Arthur's court. Under Caplin and Duncan's lead, the supporting players turn out several seamless numbers, the best of which comes in Act Two, when Arthur's nefarious illegitimate son, Mordred (Kevin Noonchester), creates unrest among the knights. The result is the rousing "Fie on Goodness," which signals the beginning of the end of Arthur's cherished chivalry.
The one supporting performer who deserves special mention here is David Richards, who does double duty as Merlin, Arthur's mentor, and Sir Pellinore, Arthur's old friend. In both roles Richards steals the show with ease. His fussy Merlin adds a touch of whimsy to the proceedings, but his absent-minded Pellinore is even more entertaining. Delivering Pellinore's lines with just the right comic timing, Richards provides a lasting note of uplifting humor that counterbalances the overriding sadness of Arthur and Guenevere's fate.