BWW Reviews: Carlisle Finds Its Grail in Hysterical SPAMALOT
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Skip a few millennia, and John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, and company were born, and Monty Python wandered upon the face of the earth, creating the apotheosis of all arts. During their reign, such cinematic gems were created as LIFE OF BRIAN and, in 1975, MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. Although the former has yet to transform religion as we know it completely, HOLY GRAIL has been the gift that's kept on giving for comedy, bastardized history, and for Broadway. Idle and composer John DuPrez (not, it should be noted, an original Python) in 2004 unleashed its musical version, SPAMALOT, on an unsuspecting public, and fourteen Tony nominations (with three wins) were the instant result.
After 1500 performances in its original run, the show retired from Broadway, but it's toured actively, as well as been performed everywhere, right down to high schools (which are usually forced to lose some of the show's best moments to make school administrators and/or parents happy, since it's... not exactly the... er... most polite show around). Right now it's on stage at Carlisle Theatre Company, neatly directed by Dustin LeBlanc, who also pulls off a nice little stage bit near the beginning as the infamous Not Dead Fred, who hasn't died of plague but just might expire from being bashed by a not-yet-knighted Lancelot's dustpan.
Greg Athanasatos, last seen in Carlisle's 9 TO 5, opens the show and returns intermittently as the narrating Historian, as well as appearing as the highly... musical... Prince Herbert, son of a lord (Ryan Boyles, also Galahad) who plainly fails to appreciate vocal performance. After the infamous detour to Finland, and plague clean-up, Terry Sheldon and Danny Sites come onstage as King Arthur and his squire-of-sorts, Patsy, seeking knights to populate the very, very Round Table. Sheldon's a fine Arthur, both vocally and in appearance, looking about as kingly as a Python-interpreter can be permitted to look, right down to the requisite Arthurian facial hair. Sites' Patsy is the essence of long-suffering, slowly-simmering irritation, which manifests beautifully in his non-exchange with Arthur in "I'm All Alone."
The crucial diva role of the Lady of the Lake, played on Broadway by Sara Ramirez, is sung, scatted, danced, and grail-wielded by Shalisha Kerr of Hagerstown, a diva in her own right. Looking like a mermaid version of Cher and sounding like one hell of a belle, her song indeed goes exactly like this, and her solo and her duet with Sheldon in the Vegas-revue "Knights of the Round Table" production number are themselves worth the price of admission. She's previously sung Belle in Carlisle's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and the Shenandoah Conservatory voice grad could take her place on any stage in the area if she wants to.
Boyles is a fine Dennis Galahad, succumbing to the Lady of the Lake and the Laker Girls' charms long before the oblivious Arthur even notices them, and taking on quests gamely no matter the opposition, cows, rabbits, or otherwise. The BFF knightly duo of Sir Robin and Sir Lancelot are Josh Miccio and Tony Crerand. Crerand, recently seen in Gettysburg's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS as the malevolent dentist, Orin, is equally maniacally amusing as the homicidally brave Sir Lancelot, rescuer of Prince Herbert and star of the funniest production number in the show (the one that somehow disappears from so many overcautious high school productions), while Miccio, an Apollo Award multiple nominee and recent winner, displays all the right moves to be the musical theatre star that Sir Robin aspires to be. Those who don't know him will be extremely surprised to find out that he's only a high school senior this year; he's a definite triple threat. Tyler Wonders handles Sir Bedivere, the last of the main knights, neatly, especially in "All For One."
It's an exceptional piece of community theatre, and worth singing along to for the many people who don't realize just how many of the show's songs they know. Carlisle's also assembled that rarest of all things, a full-scale pit orchestra that knows what to do and how to do it, and should be congratulated - it's hard to get a decently-sized pit orchestra at community theatres in the area, let alone some of the professional ones, and twelve musicians plus conductor Nick Werner is a real pleasure. The sound levels occasionally cause some overshadowing of the singers by this crowd of musical performers, but it's forgiveable.
At the Carlisle Theatre through the 19th, and it ought to be extended another weekend, although that would cut into the plethora of Rocky Horror productions (four at last count) going on in the area in what's apparently becoming an annual tradition of too many theatre groups performing it at the same time each year. For tickets, visit www.carlisletheatre.org.
Photo courtesy of Carlisle Theatre Company