BWW Review: SPAMALOT at Castle Craig Players
On Friday, July 28, I had the pleasure of seeing the Castle Craig Players' presentation of Monty Python's SPAMALOT at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, CT. Based on the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this brilliant stage adaptation by Eric Idle enraptures a live audience with the extreme farce that was once merely on a screen, or "only a model." Ian Galligan's excellent directing brings the audience right into this quest of Arthur, King of the Britons and his Knights of the Round Table.
The music incorporates traditional Holy Grail numbers such as "Knights of the Round Table," and "Brave Sir Robin," and other Monty Python songs such as "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and "Finland," but mostly contains songs that are unique to the theatrical adaptation, highlighted by "Find Your Grail." The strong musical direction of Mark Ceppetelli coupled with the fine choreography of Tessa Grunwald helps maximize all these musical numbers that were written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez.
The set features castles on both sides of the stage, with imagery projected onto a screen in the back of the stage. Certain other movable parts are added where necessary. Sound effects are perfectly timed, including the background instrumentation that accompanies the melodious live vocals containing comical lyrics. Multiple entrances, exits, and costume changes keep the pacing sharp, with the audience constantly intrigued.
All sixteen cast members, many who play multiple roles, constantly are having fun on stage, radiating their positive energy out to the audience, making the show a highly entertaining experience for all involved. The stage chemistry is strong between the entire cast, an absolutely essential element in successfully pulling off a farce, which the Castle Craig Players consistently excel at doing, casting the right people for the right roles, maximizing their talents, under Ian Galligan's direction.
Len Fredericks stars as Arthur, King of the Britons, playing the role in a way that would make the late Graham Chapman proud that his legacy in that role is being honored and maintained with dignity. Like in the movie, Arthur is initially recruiting knights for his round table, going from castle to castle, challenged by people who are either more interested in where Arthur got the coconuts, or the French guards who would rather taunt him, even to the point of throwing a live cow (portrayed by a stuffed animal) at Arthur and his companions.
Dennis, the man who is 27, not old, who objects to the lack of a democratic way in which Arthur became king, ends up joining him, as Sir Dennis Galahad, after an encounter with the Lady of the Lake. Tullio Milani and Johanna Regan who convincingly portray Sir Dennis Galahad and the Lady of the Lake, respectively, proceed to sing a song called, "The Song That Goes Like This," which is a farcical spoof upon major Broadway numbers, done in a show tunes style, but with the ever so cheeky Monty Python lyrics behind it.
Actors Josh Karam and Jason Parry complement each other well, portraying Sir Robin and his minstrel, respectively. Parry earlier keeps the audience laughing in his portrayal of the man who is "not dead yet," and sings a song about it, with the other brought out dead suddenly joining him as back up singers, one of the most humorous moments indigenous to the theatrical adaptation. Karam proceeds to enthrall the audience in his dead on nailing of the voice and mannerisms of Brother Maynard.
Griffin Kulp plays Patsy, Arthur's sidekick, who has a much more significant role in the play than in the movie. His sincerity of character and perfect timing in banging the coconuts together make his performance stand out, as well.
While no theatrical representation of God could ever fully capture the degree of reverence, beauty, accuracy, and majesty due to the Almighty, it is wonderful to see a show that revolves around a highly likeable Christian protagonist who beyond extolling obedience to God, treats such devotion as automatic. Arthur views his calling from God as a blessing, not as a burden, even when temporarily feeling down about how challenging the task has become. It is also uplifting to see a show that inspires the audience to seek and pursue their own metaphorical holy grails, God's ultimate desire for their lives, which will yield true joy and fulfillment. Furthermore, when one of the characters says that he belongs to a different religion, Arthur still treat him with the respect and dignity by which Christians are called to show towards all people.
When Arthur encounters the Black Knight who loses both arms and both legs, the proximity is so exact, timing so impeccable, lighting effects so dazzling, costume so convincing, and prop use so effective, that the dismemberment looks shockingly real, yet remains farcical.
For mature audiences, I highly recommend SPAMALOT, which presented by the Castle Craig Players, is scheduled to continue to run at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, CT, through August 6, every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 P.M., every Sunday at 2:00 PM, and on Thursday, August 3, at 7:30 PM. It will have you laughing as it helps inspire you to always look on the bright side of life, while pursuing your own metaphorical holy grail!