‘Spamalot’ is a successful quest for laughs
A review of the gag-laden, all-local staging of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at the 5th Avenue Theatre.
Seattle Times theater critic
‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’
Through March 2, 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle; $40.50-$145.50 (206-625-1900 or 5thavenue.org).
Feeling a little blue? Maybe suffering from a slight case of post-Super Bowl letdown?
Try looking on the bright side of life: The delightfully barmy musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot” just opened at 5th Avenue Theatre, in a production stocked with some of Seattle’s A-team of stage jesters and buffoons.
Based on the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” this Broadway hit has taken Seattle audiences on a madcap Arthurian quest before, in a 2007 run at Paramount Theatre. I’m happy to report that the 5th Avenue’s locally cast “Spamalot” is just as garish, madcap and entertaining — maybe more so.
It’s also got wink-wink, nudge-nudge bits just for Seattle tucked into the old Python routines, including gags about the 12th Man and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Heigh nonny ho, and why not?
“Spamalot” is set in Britain in the Middle Ages. And it gleefully milks such abominations as the black plague and gruesome warfare for laughs.
Adapted from the “Holy Grail” screenplay by Monty Python member Eric Idle (who co-wrote the show’s score with John Du Prez), the musical also mashes up Camelot with Vegas (“What goes on in Camelot, stays in Camelot”), madrigals with power ballads, killer rabbits with a gay Sir Lancelot romance.
Moreover, it shamelessly skewers musicals in general, with some especially choice jabs at “Fiddler on the Roof” (in the Jews-on-Broadway number “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”), and “Phantom of the Opera.”
“Spamalot” needs a cast that can gambol and dance, croon the very catchy and wide-ranging score (performed with aplomb by the 5th Avenue orchestra), and engage in tongue-tripping badinage. And they all gotta cut up at the clip-clop pace set by galloping-horse hoofs (actually, handheld coconut shells).
All requirements are well met in this scampering staging by Josh Rhodes, which boasts Tim Hatley’s original, fractured-fairytale scenery and costume designs. (The sets include A Very Expensive Forest, and the giant legs of a cranky Supreme Being.)
An impressive King Arthur, Allen Fitzpatrick is the ultimate royal straight man. He’s matched by Greg McCormick Allen, as the grimy, endearing servant Patsy. Allen dispatches the hyper-chipper tune “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” and the tap dance with it, to perfection. (On opening night, Idle joined the cast in a curtain call encore of the song.)
The solid brass lungs of Laura Griffith get a workout in the faux-Andrew Lloyd Weber ballad “The Song That Goes Like This.” (Glad tidings: The first-class pro Griffith has moved here, and we’ll be seeing a lot more of her at the 5th.)
Other principal players adroitly juggle several parts apiece. Matt Owen is the goofy Sir Robin, and a bumbling guard; Dane Stokinger is the obtuse Lancelot (and God, and a hilarious French taunter). Louis Hobson plays a preening Sir Galahad and limb-challenged Black Knight; Richard Gray doubles as Galahad’s Mum and Sir Belvedere.
And as a plague victim, and the flouncy Prince Herbert, Joshua Carter gets some of the biggest laughs.
Monty Python-brand silliness and potty humor and take-no-prisoners irreverence: What could a better picker-upper? Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known that “Spamalot” is a blast.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org