Monty Python's 'Spamalot'
The Festival Theatre at the Stratford Festival
David Hou. Centre: Jonathan Goad and members of the ensemble
A VOICE CHOICE
Smashing! Absolutely smashing! This ‘Spamalot’ blows the roof off the Avon Theatre from its dazzling choreography to delicious double entendre innuendo.
Although 'absolutely smashing' may sound like a borrowed British coined phrase, it fits this theatrical context. The Stratford Festival's production of 'Spamalot' is so much damned fun.
Set in medieval England, a land filled with strife, plague, and an abundance of shrubbery, King Arthur (Jonathan Goad) and his loyal servant, Patsy (Eddie Glen), embark on a quest to find brave knights to join the Round Table. Along the way, they recruit Sir Robin (Trevor Patt), Sir Lancelot (Aaron Krohn), Sir Dennis Galahad (Liam Tobin), Sir Bedevere (Aidan deSalaiz), and even Sir Not Appearing (McKinley Knuckle), who decides not to join the Knights at Camelot. The mysterious Lady of the Lake (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) bestows the name Galahad upon Dennis.
After arriving at Camelot, a female-voiced God instructs the Knights to find the Holy Grail, the cup used during the Last Supper. The quest leads Arthur and his Knights on a journey filled with encounters with all sorts of strange beings, including cattle-tossing French soldiers, the infamous Knights who say "Ni," and even an evil bunny rabbit.
The Knights decide to stage a musical not unlike ‘Spamalot’ and will eventually settle down with those whom they love.
I was never a huge Monty Python fan during my undergraduate years because I didn’t get the humour some thirty-five years ago.
And it finally dawned on me why I enjoyed this ‘Spamalot’ and encourage you to see it.
Throughout these last few weeks, we’ve been over-saturated with an exhaustive list of information ranging from flying the Pride flag, the future of Catholic schools, and silencing people who do not share similar beliefs. A month that is supposed to bring people together seems to divide and tear many asunder.
Director Lezlie Wade, Music Director Laura Burton, and Choreographer Jesse Robb’s triumvirate collaboration gloriously blew the roof off the Avon Theatre opening night. Their vision of Eric Idle’s book, music and lyrics, and John Du Prez’s music maintains the lightning pace required of farce with precision. Everything in the show continues to be a delectable lampoon from sex to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, to ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and even, yes, theatre reviewers.
Come prepared to have a solid belly laugh ‘of ridiculousness’ that Lezlie Wade speaks about in her programme notes. Each of us truly needs to laugh right now. As soon as I heard the coconut-clopping sound of the horses off stage when Patsy and King Arthur proudly ride on their imaginary horses, I put my pen down from writing notes and just sat back and laughed.
From start to finish, the visuals created by Designer David Boechler, Lighting Designer Renée Brode, and Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis are breathtaking. The medieval castle walls look cartoony with a Pythonesque flair. Although there is no mention of a Costume Designer in the program, it appears that Mr. Boechler has also taken on this responsibility. The medieval clothing is a remarkable recreation, from the knights' armor to the Lady of the Lake's stunning and flowing gowns. The execution of emily c. porter's Sound Design remains solidly consistent when needed.
Jonathan Goad is a charmingly silly Arthur and impresses with his strong vocal abilities, effortlessly keeping up with Jesse Robb's dazzling choreography performed by an extraordinary company of terrific dancers. Eddie Glen's portrayal of Arthur's sidekick Patsy is comedic gold, especially in the hilarious expressions he gives his King during 'I'm All Alone'. Jennifer Rider-Shaw's impeccable comic timing shines through in her performances of 'Diva's Lament' and 'The Song That Goes Like This' (which playfully pokes fun at Lloyd Webber's shows). I would love to see Rider-Shaw showcase her talent in other well-timed comedic productions like 'Noises Off'.
It's worth mentioning the amusing and lively Knights. Trevor Patts' performance of 'You Won't Succeed on Broadway' is particularly hilarious when the real meaning of the lyrics becomes clear. Aaron Krohn impresses with his energetic disco moves in 'His Name is Lancelot'. Liam Tobin’s ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ with Rider-Shaw is an on-point poke at how musical theatre can drag out some duets interminably long with no end in sight. Great fun.
Final Comments: Theatre is meant to make audiences think and that’s so very important. Theatre can also make us just sit back and laugh. We can’t help but laugh at all the nonsense of our woke world right now. As David Seljak says in the Programme: ‘Spamalot’ holds its [skewered elements] up to the sobering light of ridicule and asks us to “always look on the bright side of life”. And to think.”
See, good comedy does allow us to think.
And that’s why you should go see ‘Spamalot’ at The Stratford Festival.
Running time: approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot’ runs until October 28 at the Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street. For tickets stratfordfestival.ca or call 1-800-567-1600.
MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT
Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle
Music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle
A new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.
Director: Lezlie Wade
Music Director: Laura Burton
Choreographer: Jesse Robb
Designer: David Boechler
Lighting Designer: Renée Brode
Projection Designer: Sean Nieuwenhuis
Sound Designer: emily c. porter
Producer: David Auster
Performers: Henry Firmston, Eddie Glen, Jonathan Goad, Trevor Patt, Aaron Krohn, Liam Tobin, Aidan deSalaiz, Jennifer Rider-Shaw, McKinley Knuckle, Jason Sermonia, Josh Doig, Devon Michael Brown, Carla Bennett, Amanda De Freitas, Evangelia Kambites, Bethany Kovarik, Ayrin Mackie,