The cast of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Photo: Center Stage
Monty Python’s Spamalot
Music by John Du Prez
Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle
Directed by Monty Fields
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Let’s agree on one thing: no one knows silliness like Monty Python. In Flying Circus, they were pioneers of sketch comedy, parody and outrageous irreverence. No matter how buffoonish or daft the concept may have been, they knew comedy. The “Dead Parrot” sketch alone has stood the test of time. And I don’t even have time to go into the exquisite simplicity of the physical comedy within “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Extending their reach from Flying Circus to a handful of irresistibly quotable movies, Monty Python knew how to get the best laugh. Monty Python’s Spamalot is a direct musical descendant of the classic knights of the roundtable romp, Monty Python’s Holy Grail. CenterStage at JCC has taken a brave crack at this show and the laughs are non-stop.
To be perfectly clear, you do not have to be a comedy nerd or knowledgeable of the King Arthur legend to appreciate this show. While the storyline follows a king and his team of knights on a quest, the sequence of events is loosely tied together with a thinly veiled plot. As is customary with Monty Python, one scene flows into the next, creating both individual moments and an overarching comedic spectacle. A challenge I always see when local productions tackle incredibly popular works is where will the originality shine through?
In a show like Spamalot, the script absolutely lends itself to the confines of the semi-professional theater. Patsy (Pete Lay) is on point with his coconuts (clicking to emulate horse hooves) as he diligently follows the knights around. The medieval costumes and set pieces are cheaply made but earnestly worn and displayed to further accentuate the idea that we are in another time. Indeed, the “very expensive forest” is not that expensive at all but darn it, that’s the punch line!
The ensemble has a blast all the way through to the final curtain call. Respectfully staging the well-known comedic bits that have seemingly become part of the lexicon, the Knights still say “Ni,” Fred is still not dead yet, and a cute little bunny is way too harmful for its own good. Yet the cast breathes new shtick into the play for some great moments. Kevin Horton brings a beautiful tone and bravery to King Arthur. Horton carries the show with great timing and even delivers a Jean-Valjean type of performance with “I’m All Alone.” Horton and Lay have good chemistry as they journey through Camelot. Within “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life,” Lay and Horton show off their theatrical flair and display some excellent tap moves.
As for the Knights of the Round Table who “dance whene’er they’re able”, who do routines and scenes with footwork impeccable? Sir Robin (Russell Cooper), Sir Galahad (Phil Buckley), Sir Bedevere (Brian Engard), and Lancelot (David Galloway) are a ragtag team of relatable and hilarious noblemen. Cooper shines with “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”, delivering the number with staccato and vaudevillian flair. Buckley’s Galahad is a scenery-chewing hero amongst men in a blonde wig. His duet of “Song That Goes Like This” with Lady of the Lake Bridget Thomas, with its crescendos and drama, is high comedy. Engard brings a deadpan delivery to the classic burn-the-witch scene. Galloway is paired nicely with Will Tway as Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert. Though “His Name is Lancelot” is a gaudy number that bops and shines, the lead up to Lancelot’s reveal fell by the wayside.
The musical numbers in this show are some of the best I’ve seen in a while. (And keep in mind I saw the national tour of Get On Your Feet earlier this year.) The best of them, such as “Schlappong Song”, are random and campy yet evenly timed and well executed. Brigid Thomas is an absolute diva as the Lady of the Lake. She commands the stage with fierceness during the “Come With Me/Laker Girls” sequence. Accompanied by clapping hands and green-clad cheerleaders, Thomas’s performance leaves a lasting impression.
On opening night, a fire alarm went off, causing an audience evacuation and thirty-minute delay. I had to laugh. Not only at the missed opportunity for a large group of people to holler, “run away,” but also the lack of reaction to the alarm as it began. With Monty Python’s nearly anarchic and unconventional style of comedy, a fire alarm would be a fitting start to a play. And as stated in Eric Idle’s quote in the program notes: “Life doesn’t make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy’s job is to point out that it doesn’t make sense…” It’s obvious that we all need a little silliness now and then.
Monty Python’s Spamalot
May 9-26, 2019
Jewish Community Center
3600 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, KY 40205
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!