Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri
About five years ago in New York, I had the pleasure to see Spamalot, the Eric Idle/John du Prez musical based on the cult classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so I think I’m in a good position to say that the Cider Mill Playhouse’s version is at least as hilarious, and every bit as fun.( I attended the Friday, June 6, performance.)
The recorded sound track from Right On Cue Services isn’t as lush as an orchestra would be, and the set pieces are not elaborate here, but they don’t need to be. The laughs, sight gags and audience appreciation combine for a really good time. I drove by the playhouse in Endicott the night after I saw Spamalot and wished I could go in and see it again.
Being above the action in a small venue such as the Cider Mill provides a more immediate and interactive experience than sitting beneath it in a traditional theater, especially when half the fun of a show such as Spamalot is anticipating, and actively following, the scenes you remember from the film.
With book and lyrics by Idle, the genius Monty Python original member, and music by Idle and John du Prez, Spamalot had me and my brother grinning from beginning to end. My face hurt, I was smiling and laughing so much, and my brother thought they’d have to carry him out. He almost hyperventilated!
The show includes all of the best bits from the movie: clicking coconuts for horse hooves, self-flagellating monks who beat themselves between bars of Gregorian chants, the Black Night who suffers “only a flesh wound” in a confrontation with King Arthur, the killer rabbit, plus some very wonderful musical numbers that parody, even as they embody, a true Broadway show: “Diva’s Lament,” (or “Whatever Happened to My Part??”) and “This is The Song That Goes Like This.”
Another expansion of a bit from the film is the “bring out your dead” sequence. When one peasant, Not Dead Fred (Andrew Bryce), is dragged out to be tossed on a cart of bodies, the rest of the “corpses” stay alive long enough to join him in a catchy, happy song of protest, “I Am Not Dead Yet.” Bryce also plays the Historian, a French guard, a minstrel and Prince Herbert.
“Find Your Grail,” a corny, but inspiring ballad worthy of Stephen Schwartz or Andrew Lloyd Webber (oh no, not him!), is crazy-beautiful and hilarious as performed by the stunning Lady of the Lake, Marjorie Donovick. All of Donovick’s numbers are funny and require great range, which she hits almost all of the time. Her comic timing is calculated to the second.
The entire cast of the Cider Mill production is fantastic, with everyone playing more than one part, except for Donovick and Tom Kremer (perfectly cast as Arthur, King of the Britons).
I’ve seen Josh Sedelmeyer in several shows, and he just gets better and better. He gives David Hyde Pierce a run for his money as Sir Robin, especially in the musical number “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” He also plays Guard 1 and Brother Maynard.
Tim Mollen is hilarious and nuanced as Sir Bedevere, Dennis Galahad’s Mother (and what a lovely mum, she is), Concorde and the Mayor. Mark Bader is the flamboyant Sir Lancelot. one of ruthless French Taunters and the ram-horned Tim the Enchanter. He is consistently funny.
Kevin Killavey is a perfect Patsy (Arthur’s taken-for-granted sidekick) and Guard 2, and Perry Davis Harper is a showstopper as the imposing Galahad and as Prince Herbert’s father and The Black Knight.
The company, which populates the show throughout, has many faces familiar to the local and regional theater scene: Martin Borromeo, Maureen Dancesia, Matt Gaska, Brenden Gregory, Jana Kucera, Zarina Latypova, Clare Lopez and Erik Young. They all do a wonderful job as peasants, knights, lords, ladies and minstrels. The ensemble transforms in rapid succession from one character to the next, providing the fabric upon which is sown this silly, splendid story. The costume and prop requirements are dizzying.
Speaking of which, “props” to the entire production staff for pulling this off: Stephen Maffia (sound board), Valentine Monfuega (light board operator), Marty Murray and Rich Vollmer (prop/set run crew), Calley Parks and Marisa Wade (costume run crew), Kirsten Knox (props acquisition), and Nick D’Annunzio, and Sydney Stewart (scenic artists). D’Annunzio, Kucera, Monfuega, Meredith Van Scoy, Sandra Vest and Carolyn Walker are also listed in the program under costume and craft construction.
Yes, I know not everyone likes this kind of humor. Two women I spoke to, the companion of a man at my table, and a friend of mine, find it too sophomoric (although the Guards would have stopped to ponder that long enough to say that you can’t modify “‘sophomoric’” — it either is or isn’t!”) and male-oriented for their taste. Well, call me sophomoric, although not a guy — I couldn’t get enough of it!
Directed by Paul Falzone, with musical direction by Jan DeAngelo and choreography by Meredith Van Scoy, Spamalot will have you whistling along to “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life” (adapted for this show but originally from another Monty Python film, Life of Brian). That song never fails to lift spirits when they are low, and that’s what musical theater is all about.
IF YOU GO: Spamalot runs 8:15 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through the end of June at the Cider Mill Playhouse, 2. S. Nanticoke Ave., Endicott. Order tickets online at www.cidermillplayhouse.org, or call the box office at 748-7363.