BWW Reviews: SPAMALOT at Woodlawn Theatre is Frivolous Fun
Early on in Learner and Lowe's Camelot, Guinevere asks, "Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?" If her question was instead "Where are the simple joys of musical comedy?" I'd tell her to look no further than the Woodlawn Theatre. Their current production of Spamalot is two hours of pure fun and brilliant comedic performances, simple though the material may be.
Based on the cult classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the show is a nonsensical parody of Arthurian legend. Most of the iconic moments and characters from the original-including French taunters, a man-eating bunny, and some Knights who say "Ni,"-are here in full force. Fans of the film will be giggling before scenes even start, and newcomers are bound to follow suit shortly after.
Woodlawn's production team has plenty of fun with the material. Director Greg Hinojosa does a fine job. There are many over-the-top moments that are delightful and hilarious, though some scenes could be even more tongue in cheek, slapsticky, and irreverent. Rose Kennedy's costumes are flashy, well-made, and clearly inspired by the original production's Tony nominated designs. The lighting design by Matt Smith is rich and colorful, though a bit darker than would be expected for such a silly musical comedy. True to Woodlawn Theatre form, the set by Kurt Wehner and Ben Grabill is an impressive standout. It's large, elaborate, and cartoony.
The production is also blessed by some of San Antonio's best comedic performers. As Sir Robin, Darren Dalton leads Act II's biggest number, "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," with ease and style. As Sir Galahad, Walter Songer once again shows off his strong singing voice and fantastic comedic timing. Another Woodlawn favorite, Ben Scharff, gets a wonderfully funny trio of characters with The Historian, Not Dead Fred, and Prince Herbert, and every moment he has on stage is downright charming. Michael Burger is fine as Sir Lancelot, though he's far more memorable and sidesplitting as the main French Taunter, the leader of the Knights Who Say Ni, and Tim the Enchanter. The quirkier the character, the more fun Burger has. Christopher Rodriguez is splendid as Patsy, King Arthur's loyal, puppy dog-eyed servant, and as the show's choreographer, Rodriguez gives us some stylish, glitzy dance numbers. As King Arthur, Kevin Murray shows once again how skilled he is at musical comedy. He gives the role a certain ignorance and stupidity that is incredibly enjoyable to watch. But the most notable performance comes from Woodlawn newcomer, Megan DeYoung. As the beautiful Lady of the Lake, DeYoung shows off an impressive and incomparable set of pipes. When she complains about her lack of stage time in "Whatever Happened to My Part?" you ask yourself the same question. A performer like DeYoung deserves a much larger role, which sadly this male-centric show can't offer her.
If there are any shortcomings to be found, they are the result of the material itself. Though I am a big fan of the Monty Python films, particularly Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the show plays it safe. With a few very notable exceptions, such as the addition of The Lady of the Lake, the show is void of original ideas. The book, by Python alum Eric Idle, features a litany of scenes and moments that are taken from the film word for word. Though Idle adds a few new gags about Jews in show business and parodies of Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story, we've heard it all before, and his lyrics are so dull and lazy that one song uses the same joke about the correlation between gay men and the YMCA twice in the span of a minute or so. The score by Idle, John Du Prez, and Neil Innes isn't much better. With the exception of a handful of songs, two of which are lifted directly from Monty Python films, there are few memorable, hummable tunes.
Lackluster material aside, Woodlawn Theatre does a fantastic job with Monty Python's Spamalot. This is one silly, irreverent show that, as it farts in the direction of Broadway, will have you in stitches.
Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission
MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT plays The Woodlawn Theatre at 1920 Fredericksburg Rd, San Antonio 78201 now thru September 1st. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $15-$23. For tickets and more information, please visit www.woodlawntheatre.org