Get ready to bust a gut with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s 41st season opener – “Spamalot.”
While this is a must-see for Monty Python fans, it’s a great show for everyone. The musical comedy was originally adapted from the popular 1975 movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” written by the British comedic group Monty Python. “Spamalot” follows a loose series of events spoofing the legend of King Arthur while poking fun at the entertainment industry.
In the Rep’s production, everything from choreography, vocal skills, and acting talent appear effortless, as effortless as it is to laugh at the string of capers that Monty Python fans will recognize, know and love.
Whether or not you’ve familiar with the show, you’ll be drawn in immediately. Director Melissa Rain Anderson achieves a great balance throughout the production as the action oscillates between over the top and subtle, keeping the laughs rolling.
This is largely in part to the treatment of the musical numbers, which are a huge part of “Spamalot.” The music, while true to Eric Idle and John Du Prez’s original scores – come to life when performed on the Rep’s stage, thanks to the musicians and actors alike.
For instance, Lady of the Lake, (Carolann Sanita), is no-doubt a vocal powerhouse, yet she manages to be both light and tender while never too far from a goofy, well-measured vibrato. Her introductory song, “Lady of the Lake” comes off as gentle and beautiful, before she becomes a little more silly in “Song That Goes Like This,” performed with the remarkable Sir Dennis Galahad, (Adam Kemmerer). By Act II She really pours it on in “Diva’s Lament,” managing to entertain the entire audience without help from anyone else.
Perhaps the most recognizable song from the production, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” sung by Patsy, (Ben Liebert, who played Scuttle in “The Little Mermaid”), King Arthur (James Lloyd Reynolds), and the ensemble, is a particularly great moment. The upbeat positivity that Patsy carries is tempered by King Arthur’s slightly depressed mood. As an audience member, it’s difficult not to sing along when the chorus takes over the song while laughing at King Arthur’s many deadpans.
Another stand-out moment includes the number, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” King Arthur, Patsy, Sir Robin, (Erik Keiser), and the minstrels perform this number, and it’s over-the-top treatment is entirely warranted. The choreography can’t go ignored in this song, as well as Sir Robin’s hilarity at the piano.
Other key choreography moments include the familiar, “I Am Not Dead Yet” when the chorus goes from quite lifeless to an animated jig. A later scene, “His Name Is Lancelot,” involving Sir Lancelot (Mike DiSalvo), Prince Herbert (Jacob Hoffman), and men from the chorus, is sexy yet still funny and entirely enjoyable.
Indeed, dance shines as bright as the music in the production, and not just during songs. Time was taken to ensure that King Arthur and Patsy had their gaits proportioned perfectly for the various trots and canters they undertake.
Many of the actors and actresses have performed on Broadway, and the fluidity of the overall action attests to that. Look for a surprise in Act III, with a little interaction from the audience.
The show is well-crafted and guarantees a good time – and might even warrant a second trip.