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BWW Reviews: SPAMALOT Finds Holy Grail at POTS

In addition to being a sacred chalice, the Holy Grail is a metaphor for an ultimate ideal or reward. If hilarity is Spamalot's Holy Grail, the current production at Playhouse on the Square most certainly found it.

Adapted from the 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this merry musical, directed by Scott Ferguson, gallops through a ludicrous version of the Arthurian legend with the help of imaginary horses, an outstanding orchestra and a skilled cast. It's an elaborate story to tell, racing us around the world and through a plethora of perils alongside blundering knights and their hapless king.

And now, for something completely different: Being a non-dancer, I asked local dancer/choreographer Doug Herndon to weigh in on the footwork. He said: "The choreography (Jordan Nichols) was perfectly suited to the performers. It complemented the voices and enhanced the production. The male ensemble's performance was particularly impressive. They switched styles of dance effortlessly and were in sync with each other at all times."

Ahem. This farcical tale of medieval ignorance and squalor opens in grand cinematic style. Of course when any film is adapted to the stage, we wonder how (and if) they'll do all the things we've seen in the movie. This show, complete with flying cows, a fearsome killer rabbit and a dismembering sword fight, does not disappoint.

Bill Andrews, at 6'6" is an impressive King Arthur. His deep, melodious voice and deadpan comedic reactions make him an effective foil for his allies and foes, as well as a hilarious counterpart to his shamefully underappreciated servant, Patsy. (Played exquisitely by Kent Reynolds.)

Nowhere but Spamalot can a "watery tart" be a seasoned diva. Carla McDonald delivers a tour de force perfomance as the statusesque The Lady of the Lake whose repertoire includes everything from scat singing to operetta.

And now, for something completely different: The adults who were seated behind us were Python nerds, quoting lines verbatim. Their children, apparently undergoing Python Initiaion, were laughing hard enough to topple out of their seats. Their wild enthusiasm wasn't disruptive. It was contagious.

Ahem. The mind-boggline logistics required for this show amplify its farcical nature. In addition to a whirlwind of scene changes, (kudos to Stage Managers Chelsea Robinson and Katharine Stubblefield as well as Prop Manager Ashley Palmer) the principles take on many roles. Perfectly cast and equally superb in their performances, they are: David Foster, Jordan Nichols, Ryan Kathman, Cary Vaughn and Jonathan Christian. I spoke with one of them in the lobby afterward and he told me it took two dressers to help him accomplish his quick costume changes in the nick of time.

And now, for something completely different: This show was my husband, Jim's third helping of Spamalot. He said, "I've seen this show on Broadway twice--with Tim Curry and David Hyde Pierce and the POTS version was easily as entertaining and solid."

Ahem. This production features an exciting ensemble that morphs vocally and visually with aplomb. (With the help of Costume Designers Rebecca Powell and Caleb Blackwell). These stunning ingenues and striking men have solid musical theatre chops: Leah Beth Bolton, Logan Greenwell, CharityRuth Haskins, Elisabeth Hipp, Jared Johnson, Richie MacLeod, Justin Nelson, Kim Sanders, Graham Shelton, Caroline Simpson, Cassie Thompson, and Atam Woodruff.

My one and only complaint about the show--and I suspect it is a facility-related issue--had to do with a few patchy moments where an acoustical imbalance blurred the actors'/singers' diction.

By the final chorus, a gloriously goofy sing-along of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," everyone in the sold-out house was in high spirits, and once again, I felt privileged to live in a city with such a vibrant, inclusive arts community.

Monty Python's Spamalot runs through February 16 at Playhouse on the Square 66 S. Cooper Street in Midtown Memphis There will be no performance on Sunday, February 9 due to the Unified Professional Theatre Auditions. For more information or to make reservations, call 901-726-4656 or visit the website.

Photo Credit: POTS Staff

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