Eric Idle, one of the seven founding core members of the late ‘60s, early ‘70s British TV show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “stole” the zany group’s movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and brought it to the stage complete with musical numbers – many of which were lifted from other Python scores – and that’s how “Spamalot” was born.
Idle wrote the book and lyrics for “Monty Python’s Spamalot;” along with John Du Prez, he also wrote the music. But it took The Lakewood Playhouse’s Managing Artistic Director John Munn to bring the show to life. “Spamalot” is a tribute to his late father. Munn said that his father took him into his bedroom at the age of 12, sat him down and introduced him to British television by way of Benny Hill and Monty Python. Munn is finally paying his father back for that introduction and the theatre-goers of Lakewood Playhouse get the benefit.
Munn, along with the help of Musical Director Deborah Lynn Armstrong and Choreographer Casi Wilkerson, directs this fractured fairytale of how King Arthur gathered knights to help him in his search for the Holy Grail, fought off fierce foes and fell in love with the Lady of the Lake (who gave the king his magic sword named Excalibur) and who turns out to really be – uh-oh, almost spoiled it for you!
You get the idea – this show is not only a magical mixture of comedy, farce and illogical brouhaha, it’s filled with unimaginable imaginary characters all of whom do a lot of unimaginable things! And it’s all set to real music with catchy tunes, terrific dance numbers and a cast of 20 wonderful singers and dancers who spill out all the insanity before the audience with perfect timing, which brings forth the raucous laughter from the on-lookers.
Musical Director Armstrong on keyboard leads the five-piece band with August Giles on violin, Dexter Stevens on reeds, Erin McBride doing brass and Tyler Ussery handling percussion. Armstrong keeps the music loud enough to excite the audience but soft enough so the listening is easy.
Wilkerson’s choreography is stunning and a hoot! She runs the gambit from Charleston to ballet to Le Jazz Hot to cancan; the dancers make it look so easy to follow her direction.
Scenic Designer Lex Gernon creates a whimsical backdrop for the show complete with ramparts leading to the theatre’s loft with a movable staircase for easy access, along with scaffolding supporting some scattered clouds – just for British Isle effect.
Diane Runkel has outdone herself on the costumes of yesteryear and today and hither and yon – and beyond yon! Runkel is ably assisted by a myriad of stichers who include Ursula Ahmedagic, Susan Burt, Sue Coltrane, Jennifer Finley, Marcie Hagerman, Cyndi Hjembo, Christy McDaniel, Virginia Yanoff and Anne Marie Zwelfel.
Amanda Sweger does the lighting design and Dylan Twiner does sound, Hally Phillips is Prop Master; Nena Curley is Stage Manager, who keeps it all together.
But it’s Munn who deserves the credit for drawing out the hilarity in Idle’s lines, written and unwritten – like: Arthur: “I’m the king of the Britons. You can tell I am because I have a sword with a name!” and French Guard: “I’m French, of course, that’s why I have this stupid accent!)
The cast Munn has chosen is superlative in all aspects – from the smallest part (are there really any small parts in this show?) – to the lead roles.
The Laker Girls include Kadi Burt, Brittany Griffins, Stephanie Huber, Jennifer King and Jill Heinecke, who is also Dance Captain. The Male ensemble includes Larry Hagerman, Tony Onorati, David Phillips and Mason Lahd Wilkerson. These dancers change their steps as easily as they change their costumes.
Dylan Twiner, who does lights, plays the part of Techie ASM; Laker Girl Huber and Kira Zinck are a Techie Support duo – all three have supernumerary roles, which they do with aplomb.
Kyle Sinclair is Historian, among other things. Sinclair tells the audience where they are – 932 A.D. and Now (Close to Tea Time) and explains how Arthur is doing with his quest. He does a very nice job in this role, however, when he starts to sing, he is exceptionally good.
Gretchen Boyt, The Lady of the Lake makes a beautiful sight on stage. Boyt is quite attractive with regal carriage and a very good actor; her singing voice is as beautiful as she.
Arthur’s knights also play various additional roles.
Brandon Ehrenheim is Sir Bedevere as well as the prince who wished to be a princess and a couple of other parts – he does each very nicely.
Timothy McFarlan plays Sir Robin. McFarlan is also the collector of bodies of plague victims where he sings “I’m Not Dead Yet” with most of the rest of the cast – one of the first and funniest moments in the show.
Gary J. Chambers is Sir Dennis Galahad; he joins in on ‘Not Dead.” Chambers has a good singing voice and great comedy timing.
Xander Layden is Sir Lancelot. Layden does a very good job in this role but when he plays a French warrior guarding the castle, Layden is amazing. His awful accent and his cartoon-like rat movements are enchanting.
Steve Tarry is a fantastic King Arthur. He is regal, he is brave, he is valiant and he has a sword with a name. Tarry plays Arthur as a naïve, slightly dazed individual who knows he is good and right so no wrong can possibly come to him.
Coleman Hagerman is Patsy, Arthur’s charming boob of an aide who simply runs away with the show. Hagerman (the younger) is a well accomplished actor who is meant for comedy. He diligently follows his liege around, both off-horseback, making clip-clop sounds with coconut shells for the sound of the non-existent horses’ hooves. His blank-face, mouth agape stare is brilliant. Hagerman has even perfected the British pumpkin accent which makes the role even more believable when he responses to Arthur’s “I’m All Alone.”
“Monty Python’s Spamalot” continuesat The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit Depot, through July 13, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is a special 2 pm. Matinee for July 4, a Pay-What-You-Can night scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, July 19 and an Actor’s Benefit performance at the same time Thursday, July 26.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
“Spamalot” is a very funny show. According to Munn, many performances are nearly sold out. Better make your reservations quickly so you won’t be left out of the travels of King Arthur as he searches for the Holy Grail. “Always Look on the Bright side of Life;” it just takes a phone call to realize your quest of an excellent evening of musical theatre.
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