Spamalot March 6, 2011
Spamalot at Cerritos: Plenty to Like a Lot
By Glen Creason
Once upon a time folks thought contemporary British humor just did not strike Yankee funny bones. Known for dry and quirky dialogue set in surrealistic situations comedy from England took a while to take hold in the colonies. By the mid twentieth century the Goon show with Peter Sellers or the “Carry-On” films that found their way across the big pond and made inroads to America. Then, in the late 1960’s a unique slant of such levity hit the US airwaves in the form of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” that took absurd situations and made them into memorably hilarious skits. To this day, an entire generation of Americans may shout lines like “you were lucky!” from Python episodes at random to express their feelings. The catch phrase was “and now for something completely different” which can sum up the Monty Python experience quite well since they are completely different in a very good way.
Since there have been a number of successful Monty Python films it seems almost logical in the illogical Python world that there would be a theater musical morphing out of all this silliness and finally “Spamalot” hit the boards in 2004. Written by Python great Eric Idle and borrowing from the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” this broadly painted comedy sort of examines the Arthurian legend. That is if you believe King Arthur trotted about on foot with a “footman” making horse hoof sounds with halved coconuts and Sir Lancelot was a gay dandy and the Lady of the Lake is glamorous but self-absorbed vamp. Audiences have believed it however and “Spamalot” swamped the Tony awards six years ago and won best musical by landslide.
At Cerritos the Phoenix Entertainment production did justice to the Broadway original bringing unbridled silliness to brilliant color that sparkled with a live orchestra, humorous sets and very strong cast. Steve McCoy as King Arthur handled his demanding part with great skill, never making the regent whiny or truly pathetic despite the terribly daunting obstacles put in his way including clueless knights of the round table, insulting Frenchmen, tall tree-people, the dreaded Knights that say Ni! and one very fierce rabbit. Caroline Bowman was perfect in voice and comedic timing as the Lady of the Lake singing like a chanteuse and delivering lines that gained huge laughs. Adam Grabau was particularly wonderful in four roles including a taunting Frenchman and the ruggedly gay Lancelot. Glenn Giron as long suffering servant Patsy and John Garry as the fey Prince Herbert also stood out in this laugh crowded forest. The entire ensemble worked beautifully together since much of the fun here is in the crisply timed dialogue of absurdity juxtaposed against logical arguments, peppered by the vernacular. There are also moments of improvisation and even some tailoring to local tastes as when the Lady of Lake performs with the Laker Girls in scene six. Moreover, the music is actually memorable, taken right from some Python bits. “Always Look on the Light Side of Life” is almost anthem-like and “Find Your Grail” has a melody worth whistling between horselaughs.