‘Spamalot’ burns fat, Nov 24, 2013

The laugh’s on us1456562_644256988930506_1728070714_nBy Philip Pearce

PacRep has just revived its wildly popular production of Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Golden Bough in Carmel. I missed it the first time around, but heard local fans pronounce it a smash hoot. They were right. I laughed for most of the show and even smiled pleasantly during intermission.

The lunacy starts with an opening number which I won’t spoil by describing except to say it’s the most extended, elaborate, lavish, all-singing, all dancing joke I’ve ever seen played on an unsuspecting audience.

Still gasping for breath from that indignity, we moved swiftly on to a King named Arthur struggling to gather a Very Round Table full of knights to find the Holy Grail, explained more or less in the Act Two Finale “Find your Grail.” As Arthur, the charming and ever hopeful D. Scott McQuiston battles confusion and frustration from the get-go. Knight recruitment yields appealing dimwits like Sir Bedevere, rangy, dark and kind of gloomy, in the person of Dale Thompson. Then there’s the irrepressible and sprightly Mike Baker as Sir Robin, a flaxen haired troubadour with a show-biz background, a gift for tricky piano magic, a tendency to run when threatened and an incontinence problem. A disgruntled peasant named Dennis, played with great zip and enthusiasm by J.T. Holmstrom, is skyrocketed to fame and derring-do when Arthur dubs him down-stage center as Sir Dennis Galahad. The resourceful and confident Christopher Scott Sullinger has a busy evening. As Sir Lancelot he emerges in Act Two as a gay pride icon when the victim he goes to rescue from a tower turns out to be not a fair maiden but a campy blond guy named Prince Herbert, played with over-the-top relish by Mark Englehorn. Undaunted by a quick costume and dialect change, Sullinger also turns himself briefly into a scornful Gallic king with a gutter vocabulary and an accent that would floor Inspector Clouseau.

Like Pinocchio, Arthur needs a Jiminy Cricket and has him right from the start in a patient, relentlessly upbeat cockney hanger-on named Patsy, acted with tremendous charm by Tim Hart. Patsy is especially wistful when the King, lost in a dark and “Very expensive Forest,” sings a pompous self-pitying ballad called “I’m all alone”, ignoring the presence of the ever-faithful Patsy and a full male backup chorus. Patsy counters with the show’s most famous ironic number, “Always look on the Bright Side of life.”

No musical is complete without its love interest and this show has a spectacular one in the person of the effervescent Jill Miller, who arrives, as the Lady of the Lake, on a glittery barge, surrounded by a troupe of toothsome Laker Girls and singing “Come with me.” Arthur complies, but only briefly. Miller has the voice and looks of a very young Ethel Merman, only funnier, nowhere more so than in her Second Act “Diva’s Lament,” the trouble being that her part has disappeared from the story and she’s fed up with cooling her heels backstage. The script makes it up to her in the final moments when she emerges, as triumphant as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, from her wedding to King Arthur.

It was fun from beginning to end, but I especially liked the dark humor of Arthur’s challenges in battle, chief among them the stubborn refusal of some enemy knights, like the sprightly, stubborn Tara Marie Lucido, to fully die (Act One “I am not dead yet”) and of John Radley as The Black Knight to surrender his sword, even when he has lost both arms. Lynette Graves as an accommodating nun clears up the mess by loading the severed limbs into her wheelbarrow and piping, “Arms for the poor! Arms for the poor!”

The show even sets out to spoil other musicals for you by sending up some memorable favorites like those seemingly endless Lloyd Webber operatic duets (“The song that goes like this”) and all those guys in black wearing bottles on their heads in Fiddler on the Roof (“You won’t succeed on Broadway…without a Jew.”)

Director Stephen Moorer maneuvers his big cast of zanies with speed and lots of chutzpa, maintaining a tone that is irreverent, but ultimately on the Bright Side of Life. There are even some instrumental jokes from the music crew, ably led by Stephen Tosh.

Catch it if you haven’t, or catch it again even if you have, 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays, or 2pm Sundays through December 22, with an extra performance at 7:30 Wednesday, November 27.