Monty Python's Spamalot
Do you know the difference between a European and African swallow? Was your mother a hamster, and did your father smell of elderberries? If so, then come see the violence inherent in the system, at Truckee Meadows Community College Performing Arts’ production of Monty Python’s Spamalot.
Of course, if you don’t get the references above (what’s wrong with you?), you’ll still thoroughly enjoy this mash-up of overt Las Vegas flash with Broadway and a dash of the Black Plague as you follow King Arthur and his idiotic knights of the round table on a quest for the Holy Grail.
I’ll admit that as fans of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and of British humor in general, my husband and I were skeptical that this show could fit into those big shoes worn by the likes of Palin, Idle and Cleese on film, not to mention Hank Azaria, David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry on Broadway. But I’m pleased to report that TMCC’s talented troupe of performers prove once again that they not only can capably act, sing and dance, but that they can also do these things while putting on some decent (though ridiculous) British accents and demonstrating superior comic timing. In fact, dare I say that TMCC put its own uniquely funny stamp on some classic material?
Spamalot’s writer, Python alum Eric Idle, describes this musical as being “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture.” It follows the same basic plot involving King Arthur (played here by Phil Harriman) and his coconut-shell-clicking servant Patsy (Tony Johnson) as they gallop across Britain to seek knights for the round table. He manages to convince Sir Dennis Galahad (Ryan Kelly), Sir Lancelot (Cameron Shirey), the cowardly Sir Robin (Jeffrey Bentley) and a helmet-wearing Sir Bedevere (Greg Wunderlin) to join him. Along the way, God himself instructs Arthur and his knights to go on a quest for the Holy Grail, and in doing so the motley crew encounters numerous obstacles.
The show contains most of the iconic scenes so beloved by Holy Grail fans—the foolishly exuberant Black Knight (also played by Ryan Kelly), the taunting Frenchman (Bentley), the knight who says Ni (Wunderlin), the effeminate Prince Herbert of the Swamp (Aiden Billharz), Tim the Enchanter (again, Bentley) and the killer rabbit—but with additional twists that seem compulsory for this genre.
Take for instance the Lady of the Lake, who is merely alluded to in the movie as the source of the king’s authority. But on stage, the lady herself (played by Echo Running Wolf) gets to perform in all her glory, complete with back-up singers (her Laker Girls). She’s the queen of divas, wearing sequined spandex and impressively belting out power ballads such as “The Song That Goes Like This,” “Find Your Grail” and even a complaint about her lack of stage time, “The Diva’s Lament.”
There’s also an ode to Barbra, Fiddler on the Roof and other famous Jews in “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” as well as wink-and-a-nudge references to Andrew Lloyd Weber, Las Vegas and old Monty Python skits, including “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Life of Brian.
And taking full advantage of the venue, the show breaks its own fourth wall, like Holy Grail, but with the added advantage of live audience participation.
Always with reverence to the source material, the TMCC performers somehow manage to make Idle’s lines funny in new ways. Though the troupe usually does the big and showy quite well—Echo Running Wolf’s tremendous voice is a great example of this—I was pleased to see that their talents extend to the subtly clever as well.
All in all, I’d recommend that you go to Camelot. It is still a silly place.