Theatre Review: “Spamalot”

What better description of this show can you have than the one from the program cover, “A New Musical Lovingly Ripped From The Motion Picture, Monty Python and the Holy Grail”? If you are not a Monty Python addict, don’t worry. If you have any semblance of a sense of humor, this is a show that will make you laugh from beginning to end. The original productions on Broadway and in London’s West End were major successes and this Gateway production, directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, is as good as the version I saw on Broadway. The whole cast takes to the crazy Pythonesque scenes as to the manor born. Matthew Karr’s staging and costumes are first class and the orchestra under Jeff Hofmann does a great job—they manage to resist giving in and laughing with the audience!

How do you describe this kind of humor in print? I really don’t know because it depends so much on a combination of words, timing, facial expressions and that magical unknown that enables prime creator Eric Idle to make King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail such an incredible romp that it kept the opening night audience in fits of uncontrollable laughter. For example, King Arthur fights a duel with the Black Knight in which the latter is gradually dismembered, while all the time he is saying that these were only scratch wounds, even while his arms and legs lay around the stage—it just doesn’t work in print but believe me it is hilarious on stage! Similarly, the scene where they attempt to infiltrate a French castle using a giant wooden rabbit modeled on the Trojan Horse. The ploy works, except they have unfortunately forgotten to hide inside it. By the way, the ‘killer’ rabbit that defends the Grail is something to behold. [expand]

Python humor is iconoclastic and no one and nothing is spared. Brits, the French, Catholics and Jews, gays and political extremists are all the butt of jokes that really could only offend those who are too easily offended because the humor, while at time puerile, is never vicious. They also delight in poking fun at stereotypical Broadway shows including Phantom, Les Mis and Fiddler.

Once again, Gateway has assembled a great cast, led by Peter Simon Hilton as the befuddled King Arthur and the gorgeous and seductive Colleen Sexton as the Lady of the Lake who, later on, luckily for Arthur, is transformed into his Queen Guinevere. The legendary Knights of the Round Table include John Rochette as Sir Lancelot, Andrew Kober as Sir Galahad, Matthew Crowle as the ‘not so brave’ Sir Robin and Chris Cooke as Sir Bedevere, all of whom are major contributors throughout the show and some of whom multitask playing the minor roles as well. The ladies of the ensemble form one of the most beautiful groups seen at Gateway and they are seen at their best as the “Laker Girls,” supporting their Lady of the Lake and as French can-can dancers taunting Arthur’s army after the fiasco of the wooden rabbit! Almost stealing the show are Jeremy Morse as Arthur’s servant who has perfected the art of using coconut shells to make the sounds of horse’s hooves, and Brian Golub, whose effeminate Prince Herbert nearly brings the house down as he and the outed Sir Lancelot become an item.

You may go into the theater worrying about the debt ceiling, the Greek economy (or rather the lack thereof) or the parlous state of the Yankees’ pitching, but rest assured all will be forgotten at least for that “one brief moment that once was Camelot,” to steal a line from the more conventional show about the Arthurian legend. [/expand]

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