For any production of Monty Python’s Spamalot to succeed, there needs to be well-delivered, non-stop hilarity coupled with cleverly executed musical sequences. Cygnet Theatre’s interpretation features these elements in spades, largely thanks to Artistic Director, Sean Murray.
Set in a fictional England of the Dark Ages, Spamalot tells the story of King Arthur (Murray, who portrayed the character at Moonlight Stage Productions staging in 2014) and his hopeful servant, Patsy (Jonathan Sangster), who search for potential Knights of the Roundtable to join them in Camelot. After they find a complement of loyal knights, God asks Arthur to embark on a quest to find the Holy Grail.
They face many obstacles, including a taunting Frenchman (Bryan Banville), the arrogant and feisty Black Knight (David S. Humphrey) and the gigantic shrubbery-loving Knight of Ni (Anthony Methvin).
Python member Eric Idle’s script, “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’” depicts a world where anything can happen. People with deadly injuries rarely seem to pass away, modern references aren’t in short supply and God leaves earth on a flying saucer.
Director Murray incorporates many of Monty Python’s famous jokes very well, and also sneaks in some new gags that fit with the spontaneous nature of the plot. There’s such a freshness to the way different punchlines are staged, that it doesn’t matter whether you can quote the movie verbatim or if you don’t know a single line of dialogue.
Visuals and sound from the crewmembers, including Sean Fanning’s set, Chris Rynne’s lighting, Matt Lescault-Woods’ sound effects, the costumes provided by coordinator/dresser Sarah Palmer Marion and Blake McCarty’s projections are true to the spirit of the Broadway show.
Besides honoring Monty Python, Spamalot is very much a sendup and tribute to classic Broadway musicals. Idle’s prose, his lyrics and music composed by Idle and John Du Prez pay homage to, and lampoon, a variety of Broadway shows, songwriters and music ranging from romantic ballads to showstopping 11 o’clock numbers.
A few lyrics in Act 1 were a little hard to hear in an early performance, but the numbers are generally well executed by everyone involved.
Conductor/keyboardist Terry O’Donnell’s music direction and Katie Banville’s choreography cheekily feature shoutouts to popular and classic New York hits like The Rocky Horror Show, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.
Murray is only one of two performers who play a single character in Spamalot. He can be humorously irritated, the life of the party and appear vulnerable playing Arthur, and he sings with a booming and authoritative tone in tunes such as “King Arthur’s Song” and “Find Your Grail.”
Playing the full-throated diva, the Lady of the Lake, Christine Hewitt (another star from the Moonlight version in Vista), showcases her strong pipes in songs such as “The Song That Goes Like This” and “Diva’s Lament (Whatever Happened to my Part?).” She holds her own with the other performers, especially when interacting with Murray.
The rest of the cast acts as an ensemble with Sangster, Banville, Humphrey, Methvin, James Saba, Evan White and Donny Gersonde portraying characters that are beyond colorful. Each of them have scenes that allow them to make a big impression through various comedic set pieces and melodies.
If you are looking for deeper meanings to the insanity, you will find some positive messages about teamwork, sexuality and inner-strength. That’s not to suggest that Murray’s version ever becomes self-serious. His interpretation is true to the original, an unapologetically madcap, tuneful, jokefest.
By the time Spaamlot leave the theatre, audiences will be on such a high that they might feel like they just exited a first-rate amusement park. You’ll likely want to go on this ride again.