BWW Review: SPAMALOT at Mercury Theater Chicago
Those silly English k-ni-ghts are at it again.
Based on the 1975 cult classic MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, Mercury Theater Chicago brings Python's Eric Idle and composers John Du Prez and Neil Innes' tale of King Arthur and his knights back to the Windy City where its journey began in late 2004. With an initial pre-Broadway staging by stage and screen legend Mike Nichols, SPAMALOT went on to win three Tony Awards and run four years on Broadway. In a wildly intimate & well-cast staging by L. Walters Stearns, Mercury Theater Chicago offers up a jaunty, if not slightly disjointed, end-of-summer quest.
Catapulted on a Medieval mission from God to seek out the Holy Grail, King Arthur (Jonah D. Winston) leads his band of kick-lining, tap dancing, and coconutting knights through famously quotable vignettes made popular by years and years of the source material's cult status. In, around, and above the colorful single unit set by designer Angie Weber Miller, SPAMALOT plays out like an evening of sketch comedy with its light and occasionally first-draft feeling score in tow. Its Python roots, however, allows for a large handful of strong character turns.
Beginning as the wise yet droll Swamp Guards and moving onward, we're in great comedic hands as Adam Ross Brody and Karl Hamilton take on their larger roles of Sir Robin and Lancelot respectively. Greg Foster is a sweet & loyal Patsy, David Sajewich's Galahad is homicidally aloof, and Adam Fane is a scene-stealing chameleon in featured roles, especially his late-show turn as the lovelorn Herbert. And then there's Meghan Murphy's Lady of the Lake, pulling out her best riffs, impressions, and deadpans. it's a comedic and powerhouse performance which needs to be seen & heard, and she rightfully soaks in every well-deserved moment throughout the (admittedly) little stage time our Lady's allowed.
Given the writers' history, I wished at times the production embraced a more ragtag sketch comedy feeling within its presentation & that Idle et al. built up the roles of women within this tale. Yet, Stearns and Shanna VanDerwerker's chaotically vibrant choreography keeps the evening coco-trotting along at a rapid pace, letting each ensemble member shine.
A perfect night of theatre it ain't, but for Murphy's diva and a communal bout of well-earned chuckles (both intentional and not, depending on the cast's ability to hold it together betwixt their zany antics), you should leave SPAMALOT feeling you chose wisely.
SPAMALOT runs now through November 3 at Mercury Theater Chicago. Showtimes:
Wednesdays at 8pm, Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Running time: 2 Hours and 10 Minutes (With a 15 minute intermission). For tickets, please visit www.mercurytheaterchicago.com/spamalot.