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BWW Review: SPAMALOT Rolls in the Laughter at Palace Theatre

BWW Review: SPAMALOT Rolls in the Laughter at Palace Theatre

Not every show is going to have an introspective look on political climate like Ibsen, or open up difficult topics such as the AIDS epidemic like Kushner, but not every show has to: Some shows are just there to make you laugh and sing and have a merry time doing it! Which is exactly what the Palace Theatre's production of Spamalot does. Spamalot, the musical adaptation of the much beloved motion picture "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," is an endless barrage of jokes- both good and bad, both high and low- physical gags, and utter Spectacle, in the best ways possible. The music is by no means particularly difficult and any choreography can be so minimal for the principle roles that your performers don't even have to be spectacular actors in order to put on a great show, but instead they need something else: Commitment.

For an audience who doesn't want to think but just wants to laugh, have fun, and be entertained, the quickest way to their hearts is through Spectacle. Spectacle can easily be defined as any aspect of a production that is showy and flashy and theatrical. "A Friend like Me" from Broadway's Aladdin employs the tenants of spectacle, as does the rotating barricade from Les Miserables. The Palace Theatre, whose location in Manchester, NH houses a larger space than one would imagine, packs a lot of spectacle into this production: primarily in the set and lighting.

Walking into the theater, you come face to face with two large castle towers and a large wooden portcullis attached to a curtain. When the curtain rises, you see a semi-permanent part of the set: A castle upstage that is used for many scenes- including the (in)famous French Taunting scene. Throughout the show, you also see the inside of a castle, a dance club, and- being the predominant set of Act 2- a forest. Included in these set changes are backdrops flying in and out that act as screens or to very cleverly hide set changes. The tall, grand sets and scenery add a level of depth and give the performers more things to play off of, and on,

The next grandest form of spectacle of lighting. What better way to get an audience excited than to bath the stage in stark, bold lighting that gives King Arthur a seemingly glowing, divine presence? Or maybe the dark, mystifying greens and purples of a dark, twisting forest? Or how about the bright, phantasmal rainbow of colors a dance party in Camelot? The Palace Theatre's use of bright colors, color pairing, washing the stage in light, and wowing the audience as the lights start to move around the stage captivated the audience and drew them closer to the party on stage: which was all these performers needed to get them hooked on their line.

As mentioned previously: you don't need to be a "good actor" to play a role in Spamalot but you do need to be committed, shameless, and quick, and you need to make bold, unashamed choices that will shock the audience with your crudeness. Whether you are a diva, like the Lady of the Lake, or you need to be many characters and make them each unique, like Sir Lancelot, making clear, unapologetic choices are what you need to keep an audience roaring with laughter, which is exactly what the Palace Theatre did.

The Lady of the Lake, while absent from the film, plays a very important role in giving the exposition of the musical. Exposition- being the information that an audience needs in order to understand who characters are, their history, and why they are here- is a hard beast to write, especially in a show like this. Spamalot, in particular, really doesn't need a whole lot of exposition: Really the only exposition involved King Arthur and how he became to be king. That is all the audience needs to know in order to follow the story. So, how is it done? The Lady of the Lake. She is how Arthur became King, and through her is how that story gets told. But after that? Well, Eric Idle (Writer) handles that dwindling purpose with ease by continuously bringing the Lady of the Lake back for no other reason than to point out that she doesn't need to be back ("Whatever Happened to My Part"). This gave Lady of the Lake actress, Jenna Kantor a very difficult task: How do you keep an audience interested in a role that has no purpose past the first few scenes? Kantor does so beautifully by transforming the Lady of the Lake into an over-exaggerated, show-stopping- however not quite flawless- on stage diva. Rocking many bright, bold costumes, her costumes are easily outshone by her animated faces and off-the-wall vocals in a very, technical-wise, ugly way, which the audience relishes in. Her unapologetic nature and her persistent pushing the boundaries made her character fit right in with the hilarity happening around her.

The exact opposite of having a character who does very little, is having a character that does so much! Isaak Olson, who plays Sir Lancelot, also has to play the French Taunter, the Knight of Ni, and Tim, the Enchanter. Olson's tasks is hardened tenfold by having to change from one to the other quickly and make the personalities so different that, while the audience will obviously know it is the same actor, they will also understand that he is playing different characters and may even need a few minutes to recognize him. As difficult as that sounds, Olson stepped up to the plate and knocked each role out of the park! From tracking Sir Lancelot's arch of violent bravado to uncovering a deep secret about himself, to the Taunter's crude, vulgar, and over the top insults of King Arthur and his Knights, to the shrill, stilted form of the Knight of Ni, to the dangling, defeated voice of the famous Enchanter... Tim, Olson gave each character a life and purpose, pushed the boundaries of appropriateness, committed to his actions, and didn't hold back. His freedom and shamelessness made the audience clutch their chests from laughing so hard, especially during the Lancelot surprise that is "His Name is Lancelot."

The only thing better than a cast of unapologetic buffoonery is that one character who rises above them all and steals the show with their sincerity. Patsy, the proverbial pack mule of King Arthur and who is played by Ryan Malyar, is the "serious" character amongst the sea of chaos. While "serious" in this case doesn't mean "not-funny," as the role is a riot in and of itself- see "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" for example- Patsy does play a more sobering and grounded role than any other character in this musical. This refreshing sincerity and charming innocence paired with many well timed subtle jokes sears Patsy onto the memory of the audience as the endearing reminder that even silly things, like a musical, can have a purpose in one's life.

In a show where the main goal is to make an audience laugh until they cry, being bold, unapologetic, and daring to push the boundaries of what can be done is a sure way to make sure that any audience will leave happy and fulfilled. From bewildering them with massive sets, to dazzling them with colorful lights, to busting their guts with fart jokes and silly faces, the Palace Theatre's production of Spamalot reminds the audience that it is okay to sit back, relax, and laugh without having to think about it.

Don't miss out on your chance to see the Palace Theatre's production of Spamalot from now through November 10th in Manchester, NH. You can see show times and buy tickets online at www.palacetheatre.org.


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From This Author Jared Reynolds