note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
. I’ve seen “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” the hysterical musical farce, three times in the past two years, and every time, it’s a huge hoot. The wacky, multi-award winning, two-hour musical continues its outrageous plague of pithy dialog, slap-happy numbers, and sacrilegious spoof of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table’s search for the Holy Grail, (reputed to be the vessel that Jesus drank from during the Last Supper and contained drops of Jesus’ blood collected during his crucifixion thus giving it holy, healing powers) at Ogunquit Playhouse.
When “Spamalot” is performed, it’s refreshed, updated with cracks about popular celebrities, local politicians and places. This version includes, among other things, a reference to “Spamalot” star Charles Shaughnessy’s role as Mr. Sheffield in the TV comedy series “The Nanny,” starring Fran Drescher.
This musical is loosely based on the movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” which was wildly successful. Its fame continues to explode on stage, with its set that’s larger than life - castle walls and ramparts, exterior steel doors, a massive wooden rabbit rampart, and the huge, tacky Las Vegas lottery spinning wheel. Conversely, the set shifts from the historical and seamy side of life to the ethereal, extending to the voice, hand, and feet of the Almighty, with crashes of thunderclaps and lightning, thanks to set/costume designer Tim Hatley, sound designer Jeremy Oleksa and lighting designer Richard Latta. A scrim projects the map of Europe, with holograph images as King Arthur, his trusty servant Patsy, and the Knights travel the world, without horses but clip-clopping coconuts, to recruit soldiers and knights in their worldwide quest for the chalice.
Besides Shaughnessy, who is a dignified, regal King Arthur despite all the tomfoolery around him, the cast is stupendous. Broadway darling Rachel York delivers a bombastic, campy performance as the Lady of the Lake that highlights her incredible vocal range, comedic timing, and luminescent beauty. She is captivating in numbers such as “Come with Me,” “The Song that Goes Like This,” and her frustrated anguished solo, “The Diva’s Lament” after her role lapses for awhile on stage.
Most people are unaware that York’s handsome real-life groom of a few weeks, Ayal Miodovnik, is the delightfully comedic Sir Dennis Galahad, and also the big, bad Black Knight and Prince Herbert’s homophobic father.
We can’t forget Broadway award-winning performer Jeffry Denman, who stole the audience’s hearts at North Shore Music Theatre, the Reagle Theatre of Greater Boston, and in national touring companies of several musicals, including “White Christmas”. He outshines himself here as timid pants-soiler Sir Robin, especially in his big number, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway [if you don’t have any Jews]”. Denman also portrays a guard and Brother Maynard.
Reprising their roles in the national touring company are talented Matthew Greer, as closet gay Sir Lancelot, who has a jazzy, pizzazzy, coming-out party rivaling the Village People. Greer also portrays the gauche French Taunter, the larger-than life Knight of Ni, and Tim the Enchanter; while Christopher Sutton is hilarious again as effeminate, sprightly Prince Herbert, and in lesser roles as Not Dead Fred, the Historian, a minstrel and a French guard.
The entire show is upbeat, silly, and melodic, with Rick Bertone and his band of seven musicians, creating rich, full musical accompaniment that sounds like a full orchestra.
And, yes, the group finds the grail,but not where you’d expect it. It’s on the seat of an unsuspecting audience member, who is accompanied on stage as the knights’ hero, touted, decorated, and photographed with them.
Besides a rip-roaring wedding scene with a reprise of “Find Your Grail” and a confetti shower, followed by an audience singalong of the uplifting “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” the energetic cast infuses everyone with the play’s credos of all for one and finding your own grail.
Ogunquit’s production of “Spamalot” rates among the best, and is a good reason to visit the primeval beauty of my home state of Maine. Like “Spamalot,” it’s the way life - and happiness- should be.
BOX INFO: Two-act musical comedy, book, lyrics and music by Eric Idle; composer, John DuPrez; starring Charles Shaughnessy and Rachel York; directed, choreographed by Scott Taylor; appearing at the Ogunquit Playhouse on Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine, now through September 11. Performances are Tuesday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 3:30,8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2,7 p.m. Matinees also on Wednesday and Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $49-$67. Performances may vary. For tickets, visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or call the Box Office at 207-646-5511