By PAM HARBAUGH
King Arthur and Monty Python have long enjoyed their effervescent friendship. But seldom does it burst forth into such ebullience as it does in Orlando Shakespeare Theatre’s professional, laugh-a-minute production of Monty Python’s “Spamalot.”
In fact, I have seen many productions of this and I’m happy to say I’ve never enjoyed an evening of silliness as much as I did Friday’s opening. Perhaps it is the thrust stage which brings this nutty musical into your lap; or the talent-filled professional cast led by the dreamy Davis Gaines; or the blazing choreography; or the dazzling visuals from costumes and props to scenery and lighting.
No doubt. This is a recipe for a sure fire hit which is going to make it hard as Knights of Ni to get a ticket.
The brilliant mind behind this musical is Eric Idle, who wrote its book, lyrics and music. It is based on the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” It revolves around King Arthur and his hapless servant, Patsy. Charged to find the Holy Grail, they set about forming the Knights of the Round Table. Now, infuse into that a bevy of dancing Lakers Girls, a French Taunter filled with rude gestures, a man-eating rabbit…Just so much to go comically wrong.
Directed by Jim Helsinger, the cast milks buckets of comic moments udderly (sorry…still under the influence) dry. It is music directed by Steve MacKinnon, who leads the six-piece ensemble sitting on a somewhat hidden platform far upstage. As stage managed by Stacey Renee Norwood, this show moves at such an exhilarating clip it leaves you limp with joy.
The cast are pros who bring exquisite timing and put their own personal comic stamps onto their characters. Lifting it even higher is the infectious fun the cast has with this show.
While known as a serious actor (he was the Phantom on Broadway and Javert at Orlando Shakes), Davis Gaines exudes a delightful, understated humor as King Arthur…as well as that fabulous voice, of course. He has great duets with the Lady of the Lake, the drop-dead fabulous and funny Dee Roscioli (Elphaba in ‘Wicked’ on Broadway and Chicago), whose flawless voice has strength and quite a range. Her take on “Whatever Happened to My Part?” is a show stopper.T. Robert Pigott is known to Titusville Playhouse audiences as Leo Bloom in “The Producers” and Yvan in “Art.” But, as they say, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Here, he is Sir Robin, the all-singing, all-dancing knight who commands the stage while he sings “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” Jonathan Wiener may be Sir Lancelot, but he upstages himself when he takes on the role of the French Taunter – the deliriously rotten French guard who denies entrance to King Arthur and his Knights.
Michael Hunsaker (last season’s Jean Valjean) pokes fun at his own handsomeness in his role of Sir Galahad, who sings “The Song That Goes Like This” with Ms. Roscioli. Philip Nolen – he who can turn any moment into comic gold – is Sir Bedevere as well as Mrs. Galahad and Concorde, Lancelot’s servant, which, despite it’s flash-quick appearance, brings Mr. Nolen’s funniest moment.
The hilarious Brad DePlanche is Patsy, King Arthur’s coconut-clapping servant. And Chris Crawford carves plenty of humor out of his many roles, which include Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert who dreams for a knight of his very own.
Billy Sprague, Jr. brings a big, Broadway quality to his choreography. Mr. Sprague was in the Broadway cast of “Spamalot” and has worked on multiple productions nationwide of this musical. Jim Hunter’s colorful scenic design works cleverly, allowing Andrew Mulkey’s projections on a sliding screen. That screen may have had a hiccup on opening night, but it turned into comic fodder for Mr. Nolen who ad-libbed about the cheap seats.
Bert Scott’s lighting design keeps with the colorful, cartoon motif. The rented costumes were designed by Tim Hatley, who was nominated for a 2005 Tony Award for his costume design on the Broadway production of “Spamalot.”
Do go to this. Orlando Shakes’ production of Monty Python’s “Spamalot” is worth every mile you drive, every minute you spend and every penny you pay. It’s theater fun, unbridled.
To view a video, go here for the link.
SIDE O’ GRITS: Monty Python’s “Spamalot” runs through Oct. 11 at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. It performs variously Tuesdays through Sundays in the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando. Tickets range from $30 to $60, with $10 discounts for students and military. There are also $22 Student Rush tickets available. Call 407-447-1700 or visit www.OrlandoShakes.org.