THE BASICS: Rousing revival of the 2005 musical hit by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, adapted from the landmark 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Directed and choreographed by Lynne Kurdziel Formato. The large cast (19!) includes a six wench chorus. There’s also a ten player band, led by musical director Allan Paglia. SPAMALOT (at Kavinoky Theatre), with its single intermission, runs about two hours and twenty minutes.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: The Middle Ages. Arthur, King of the Britons, works to assemble knights for his newly devised Round Table, then gets a mission from the Almighty (as video projection), to retrieve the Holy Grail. Arthur et al encounter a boatload of loonies on their quest, which ends happily, and with a little surprise audience interaction.
THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION: As a Python fan who was only vaguely aware of the 2005 Broadway hit (Three Tony awards, including Best Musical), I found SPAMALOT a delightful surprise. All the best bits from the film (European vs African swallow, The Knights of Ni, the testy, progressively limbless Dark Knight, the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog) have been retained. One major (and happy) addition is the Lady of the Lake, Arthur’s sword-giver, secret supporter and surprise love interest—a character apparently developed for, but cut from, the Python film. The small role of a barely alive plague victim has been amplified; Not-Yet-Dead Fred has been given his own song-and-dance routine! This is just one of a host of big, spoofy, Broadway style numbers, nicely punctuating stretches of vintage Pythonian nonsense. Naturally, not all of the bits are inspired; I was less than enthused about the whole Jews and Broadway sequence. There are the occasional crude and raunchy moments. But by and large, SPAMALOT is a comedy gold mine, with more than enough laughs to satisfy any reasonably liberal, reasonably hip crowd.
Veteran director/choreographer Kurdziel Formato is at the top of her game here, leading her large, talented cast to the finish line with style and gusto. As King Arthur, Greg Gjurich (looking very Don Quixote/MAN OF LA MANCHA-ish) provides the show with a strong, witty anchor. Steve Copps makes a fine, jaunty Lancelot, and later blew me away doing a killer Sean Connery impersonation for Tim the Enchanter. Michele Marie Roberts, as the Lady of the Lake, carries off a cute little Judy Garland turn. With her extraordinary pipes and strong comedic chops, Ms. Roberts steals about every scene she is in. Her solo number, “Whatever Happened To My Part?”, is uproarious. Kudos also to Louis Colaiacovo as the cowardly, musical-theater-loving, none-too-closeted Sir Robin. Keep an eye on this guy’s puss; his expressions alone are worth the price of admission! I could go on and on, let me just say that there are no weak links in the large cast. The actors all bring plenty of energy, and seem to be having a terrific time!
Make no mistake, SPAMALOT is a pretty mighty undertaking. All of the various designers have a lot to do. The costumes, courtesy DC Theatrics, are super-abundant, colorful, witty. (Love those conch-shell bustiers!). There’s a typically fine castle set by David King, complemented with Terry Gilliam-like LED images coordinated by Brian Milbrand. The ten piece band, somewhere offstage, gave nice, snappy renditions of the less than fabulous tunes, and happily kept from drowning the soloists out. Eric Idle’s clever lyrics were well served. A lot of time, energy and money have been lavished on this particular show, and by golly, it shows!
IN SUM: Here’s homegrown theater at its best! SPAMALOT is a howl, and a big, colorful feather in the Kavinoky’s cap. Ride your steed right over while you can. Cocoanut shell recommended, but not required.
Photos courtesy Kavinoky Theatre – taken by Gene Witkowski
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!