Stepping into Monty Python’s revered shoes must be a daunting task for any actor. Ask almost anyone their thoughts about “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and you’re in for quoted lines, the sound of coconuts being used as horses’ hooves, and their take on the French taunting the English for a second time, if not an impromptu chorus of “Brave Sir Robin.”
“Spamalot,” currently in previews at Park Playhouse, is the film taken a step further for the Broadway era — a little more sparkle, a little more pizazz, a little more polish. Also, like the movie, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
For the few people who aren’t well-versed with the basic plot: King Arthur (Steven Earl-Edwards) is gathering knights for his Round Table. He gets Sir Robin (Noam Tomaschoff), Sir Lancelot (Ian Poake), Sir Galahad (John Caliendo) and Sir Bedevere (Vincent DiPeri), and they, along with Arthur’s faithful servant Patsy (Doug Nyman) are sent on a quest by God to find the Holy Grail.
Encounters on the way
Along the way, they come across various characters who either help them or stand in their way, such as the Knights that Say Ni, The Lady of the Lake (Molly Rose McGrath), and Tim the Enchanter, who warns them about a very dastardly foe indeed.
The ensemble worked well together. One of the things about a show that’s based in sketch comedy is that even when something goes a little astray (a cue takes a little longer than planned to be picked up, a costume piece malfunctions) it can be worked into the show as part of the comedy, and it doesn’t take away from the general humor and frenetic joyous pace of the production.
Michael LoPorto did a fine job with the direction; the show was never rushed and the actors projected a sense of genuine glee to the audience. The show was very well received by the crowd (and it’s not easy to win over a crowd of people wilting in the type of heat we had that night.)
Tomaschoff’s Sir Robin was a standout among the knights; his comedic timing was excellent, and his characterization was his own (it can’t be easy to make a character made famous by Eric Idle your own, but he managed it well.) McGrath’s Lady of the Lake was excellent as well; she’s proven time and again her powerful voice can fill any space, and the great outdoors is no exception.
Earl-Edwards’ Arthur was lacking in the charisma needed for the character, sadly; it was hard to see why the knights would follow him (and with the age difference between Earl-Edwards and McGrath, it was a little off-putting to see where the show was taking their relationship.)
This is the perfect production for Park Playhouse (but leave the little ones at home; it’s not recommended for children under the age of 13 because of adult language and content.) It’s a great show to watch under the stars, laugh (a lot), and catch some of the joy the performers clearly feel doing justice to a show most of us love to distraction.