There’s nothing quite like “Spamalot.”
The irreverent musical, based on the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” takes bits and pieces of history, modern culture, politics, Broadway and whatever else popped into the wacky imagination of book and lyrics writer Eric Idle. ”Spamalot” mixes them up in a steaming cauldron, and serves them up with side dishes of deliciously outrageous humor and situations.
The ambitious show is being presented by the Falls Patio Players. Robby McGhee is directing.
The loose story follows England’s King Arthur during the Middle Ages as he rounds up the Knights of the Round Table. Back in Camelot, where he resides, he receives a divine order to find the Holy Grail. So, off they go on adventures that are part Broadway musical, part Marx Brothers slapstick, part Monty Python absurdity.
They meet villagers collecting the dead – or almost dead; they talk to Jesus, who is watching a baseball game; they bring on a Trojan Rabbit to try to enter a French castle fortified by disrespectful Frenchmen. In Act II, the band, reduced to just King Arthur and his sidekick Patsy at times, must travel through The Very Expensive Forest and bring back a shrubbery to get past the Knights of Ni, fight the Black Knight (who loses badly) and face The Killer Rabbit. There’s a whole lot more, but you’d never believe it. Puns, body parts (faux, of course) and animals (not real, of course) fly about the stage.
The Players have found a fine King Arthur in Jerry Becker. His king has a suitable British accent and a regal bearing, but not too regal to look bemused when he’s thrust into the role of royal foil. Such is the case when he begins his search for knights and instead ends up in a discussion of birds and coconuts with some local yokels. Arthur is probably the most normal of characters in the show and Becker never lets him stray too far into the madcap. Instead, he creates a calming focal point and handles all the music and dance with a likeable ease.
There are lots of wonderful individual performances, dancing and surprisingly beautiful music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. Yet, this cast never really loses sight of the silliness and brings lots of over-the-top energy (required to pull this off).
Arthur’s squire Patsy (Brad Novak) is delightful, appearing in many scenes along with the king. He lends a fine comic touch, especially in the song “I’m All Alone.” The knights, who all do well with the comedy and music, include Allan Zablocki as Sir Bedevere, Casey Van Dam as Sir Robin, Ben Bartos as Sir Lancelot and Adam Qutaishat as Sir Galahad.
Perhaps the most notable individual performance is that of Bryanna Vancaster as Lady of the Lake, who gave Arthur the sword named Excalibur and the right to become the ruler of England. Vancaster has an “American Idol” channeling her inner Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera with amazing strength, clarity and range. Her “Whatever Happened to My Part” in Act II is a real show stopper.
I also loved Eric Welch’s portrayal of Prince Herbert, the effeminate son of the King of the Swamp Castle (Welch plays other roles as well). He is most engaging and his lilting falsetto tunes are truly easy on the ears. The finale of the “Prince Herbert’s Chamber” scene, “His Name is Lancelot,” is a hilarious celebration.
Another fun part is that of the French Taunter, delivered perfectly by Glen De Voe in one of the show’s funniest scenes.
The grail dance – a take-off of the bottle dance in “Fiddler on the Roof” – is also a highlight in the show, presented during the “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” scene.
Though it is nonstop, tongue-in-cheek comedy, “Spamalot” also has some surprisingly lovely tunes. The show’s music director and pianist is Julie Johnson. The 14-piece orchestra, conducted by Jacob Sudbrink, has a rich, full sound but occasionally overpowers the ensemble singers. Opening night also had a few mic issues, particularly on Vancaster’s device.
Melissa Bloch-Meier’s choreography is a big hit, especially with regard to the Laker Girl dancers, who handle all sorts of moves with verve. There is everything in this show – tap, cheerleading moves, disco. You’ll even spot the Macarena.
The big production numbers, such as “Find Your Grail,” were visually and musically outstanding thanks to a handsome castle set design by Chris Budish and well-done costumes by Laura Hughes and Lori Matasek.
There are dozens of moving parts in this show, all of which must be working well in order for the show to succeed.
Hats off to the Patio Players for presenting this fine rendition to the community.
The next big production for the group will be “A Christmas Carol” in December, at which time the North Middle School auditorium will have completed an extensive facelift.
If you go
Who: Falls Patio Players
When: Through April 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: North Middle School auditorium, N88 W16750 Garfield Drive, Menomonee Falls
Info/Tickets: fallspatioplayers.com; 262-255-8372