Review: giddy, rude & ridiculous “Spamalot” is at 6th Street Playhouse through September 22, 2013
It’s summer and if you’re in the mood for silly…the trotting coconuts, the killer rabbit and the knights who say “Ni” are all back in 6th Street Playhouse’s irreverent Spamalot which plays in its GK Hardt Theatre through September 22,2013.
The 2005 Tony Award-winning musical comedy by Python super-star Eric Idle, with musical score by Idle and composer John Du Prez, is a loving rip-off of the 1975 classic film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Through a medley of song, slapstick, pun, and abandonment of political correctness, Spamalot tells the tale of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail and his knights’ entanglement in a Broadway production. Along the way, it cleverly and unabashedly exploits all the cannons of musical theater while poking itself for being a musical.
In the capable hands of Craig Miller, 6th Street’s Artistic Director, the mash-up more or less succeeds. Miller, who brought us The Great American Trailer Park Musical (2012) and The Marvelous Wonderettes (2012) and who just picked up an astounding six awards in the 2013 SFBATCC (San Francisco/Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle), once again combines strong local talent with an excellent production team.
I saw the show last Saturday evening (8/24), opening weekend. It delivered some good laughs and some catchy tunes, against the backdrop of great sets and unexpected projections, all adding up to an appealing musical. I can only imagine that the comedy component will get stronger over time as the actors work together more and find that relaxed sweet spot where they can really deliver up the hysterically funny and shameless gags we associate with Python brilliance.
Arthur and company’s musical journey begins in Finland, with the “Fisch Schlapping Song,” grown men being silly and whacking each other with huge fish. The narrator soon gets the story back on track, back to a dense forest and the time of the plague, where it’s time to cart-away the bodies. From there, it’s a romp through history as Arthur and his motley crew proceed to Camelot and become Knights of the Round Table. Their zany escapades include battling French Can-Can Girls, warring with a French fort and hurling a huge wooden Trojan rabbit as a weapon, and trying to outwit a vicious biting bunny who protects the Holy Grail. The characters also take on the assignment of performing a Broadway musical. One of the funniest moments comes when Robin belt outs a lament to Arthur that their production will never make it to Broadway “if it doesn’t have any Jews!”
M.P. fans will recognize familiar tunes as “Finland,” “Knights of the Round Table” and “Always Look on the Brightside of Life,” a classic from Life of Brian. Idle and Du Prez co-created catchy tunes like “I Am Not Dead Yet” and “The Song that Goes Like This” and many of these are reminiscent of Lloyd Webber, Rogers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim, however the silly lyrics are all Idle’s. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” is one of the most memorable songs and, of course, is a credo that we should all live by.
Barry Martin’s King Arthur is the heart of Spamalot. The Napa-based actor, director and co-founder of Lucky Penny Productions has natural comedic timing, a fantastic and robust singing voice, and he delivers an alternately noble and kind of daffy King Arthur whose generosity of spirit rings through all the antics surrounding him.
Arthur’s coconut-clapping page/sidekick and imaginary steed, Patsy, is played to the hilt by Erik Weiss, also a delight to behold. He’s quite young, just starting his senior year at Montgomery High School, but has a natural affinity for comedy, evident as he trots and schleps around stage beside Arthur.
Taylor Bartolucci Deguilio’s Lady of the Lake, is a spoof of all leading ladies and Broadway conventions. Beaming Deguilio was quite sultry in an array of beautifully colorful form-fitting costumes by Pamela Johnson, but her singing voice, while energetic, was not in its usually radiant top form. Natalie Herman (Not Dead Fred/Prince Herbert/Ensemble) had small roles but the combination of a marvelous voice and that magical “it” factor, made it her night. After she sang just a few lines of “I am not dead yet” in Act I, I was fixed on her all night long and she got more delightful as the show progressed.
As Sir Robin, Trevor Hoffman pulled off some great dancing and singing. His Act II song “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” was one of the highlights of the evening—hysterically bemoaning the lack of Jewish entertainers in Arthur’s motley crew.
There’s not a bad seat in the GJ Hardt Theatre and the stage pops with Theo Bridant’s gorgeous lighting and Jess Driekson’s scenic design. Alise Girard’s choreography is polished and delivers, among many feats, a chorus line of dancing divas and knights and other sundry characters. Hats off to musical directors, Jason Sherbody and assistant David Brown for their tight coordination of 22 songs. Backing up the singing and zany action on stage is the talented eight member orchestra that keeps the rich music flowing all evening long. Jason Sherbody (Conductor/keyboards), Steve Parker (Reed 1), Brendan Buss (Reed 2), Toom Woodville (Trumphet), Marc Rudlin (Trombone), Lisa Doyle (violin), Ab Menon (guitar/banjo), Joel Renteria (bass), Ricardo Lomeli (drums).
Overall, ARThound goes with a line from the knights who no longer say Ni! …. ekki-ekki-ekki-pitang-zoom-boing!
Up next at 6th Street Playouse: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Oct 25-Nov 10, 2013) Based on Ken Kesey’s novel and made famous by the 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson, Dale Wasserman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the story of a charming rogue who chooses to serve a short sentence in an airy mental institution rather than in prison. He realizes this was a mistake as soon as he clashes with Nurse Ratched who controls the psych ward and is a formidable opponent of his notions of nonconformity. He quickly wins over his fellow “loonies” and accomplishes what the medical profession has been unable to do for twelve years; he makes a presumed deaf and dumb Indian talk, leads others out of introversion, stages a revolt so that the entire ward can watch the World Series on television, and arranges a rollicking midnight party with liquor and chippies. The famous show down between nurse and patient is one of the riveting evenings of theatre. Stage Direction by Lennie Dean
Details: Spamalot ends September 22, 2013 at 6th Street Playhouse’s GK Hardt Theatre, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA. Performances: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 2 p.m. Tickets: $15 to $35. For more information: www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or phone 707.523.4185.
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