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BWW Reviews: Omaha Loves SPAMALOT

SPAMALOT, Eric Idle's and John Du Prez' outrageous spoof of a musical based on the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," opened at the Omaha Community Playhouse under the direction of Mark Robinson to thunderous applause, guffaws, and cheers. This night of ridiculousness, offset with beautiful costumes, set, and music, made for a welcomed retreat from the world for just over two hours.

Melanie Walters as Lady of the Lake is delightfully over the top as the muse who delivers Excalibur and 'kings' Arthur. Her vocals are powerful and true, but she is also able to poke fun at divas and lounge singers with exaggerated performance and long drawn out notes. Melanie's rendition of "Whatever Happened to My Part" brought the loudest cheers of the night and showed Omaha that she is a still a star.

Also a crowd pleaser is "I'm All Alone" sung by Nick Albrecht (King Arthur) and Brian Priesman (Patsy, his coconut-clapping sidekick). What makes this duet even funnier are Brian's subtle asides and facials. He doesn't roar and demand laughs, so common to this style of comedy; rather he coaxes them out with his understated style. Nick is likeably dull-witted and can't seem to impress the villagers with his crown, but he impresses the audience with his rich voice.

There is a whole cartload of funny in SPAMALOT. The Fisch Schlapping Song has the ensemble happily slapping each other in the face with fish. Dead men keep being un-dead. A monk spins a nun as if they were in the ice skating Olympics. Prince Herbert's guards (Katy Boone and Samantha Quintana) can't quite get their instructions right. The funniest line of the evening to me, however, is one that is simply unexpected. When trying to find a shrubbery for the Knights of Ni, it's suggested, "Maybe we could build one out of cats."

"I'm Not Dead Yet" featuring Not Dead Fred (Matthias Jeske), Sir Lancelot (Zach Kloppenborg), Sir Robin (Adam Hogston), and company is not only a slapstick number about hauling bodies away on a cart, it could also be a statement about not giving up too easily. The theme of not being dead yet is repeated throughout the story, such as when the knight declares it only a flesh wound when his limbs are cut off. Prince Herbert (Marcus Benzel) also insists that he is not dead yet after he falls from the castle window when his father (Matthias Jeske) cuts his escape rope made of sheets. "The Song That Goes Like This" refuses to die, but is mercifully sung by the outstanding Sir Galahad (Ryan Pivonka) and the Lady of the Lake (Melanie Walters.) Optimism is rampant.

Not to be missed are Ryan Pivonka (Sir Dennis Galahad) with his forward thinking political and social views, and Don Harris (the palsied and recently widowed Mrs. Galahad who is seeking a replacement.) Matthias Jeske shows his versatility by playing characters as varied as the finely spoken Historian to the vocabulary-challenged Head Knight Who Says "Ni."

The entire cast is solid. When the men sing together, my hair stands on end because of the sheer beauty of the harmony. Accompanied by a superb orchestra directed by Jim Boggess, these musical numbers transcend silliness and become something more. The dancers are just plain fun to watch. With inspired choreography from Melanie Walters and clothed in fabulous glitzy costumes by designer Lydia Dawson, they refuse to let audience attention wane. I especially love the yellow rainwear with matching hats and umbrellas...a little "Singing in the Rain" anyone? They certainly are the bright side of life.

Now, how can I describe the set and lighting? Stunning? Imaginative? Creative? Just freaking great? Steve Wheeldon didn't overlook a detail. His scenic design is good enough to warrant a second ticket purchase to SPAMALOT all by itself.

SPAMALOT doesn't remain on this beautiful stage. The audience is drawn into the production--literally. The audience is encouraged to sing along. Sir Not Appearing is a different member of the community each performance. On opening night it was Dick Boyd, an icon in the Omaha Community Playhouse history. Mr. Boyd played Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" for 30 years.

If there are any faults with SPAMALOT, I didn't see them. My eyes were leaking tears at the antics on the stage. My friend said she would be buying tickets for a second showing. Heck, I may buy another ticket myself. I like SPAM A LOT!

Photo Credit: Colin Conces

Matthias Jeske (Not Dead Fred), Melanie Walters (Lady of the Lake), Sydney Readman (Camelot Girl), Nick Albrecht (King Arthur), Matthias Jeske (Historian) and Zach Kloppenborg (French Taunter)



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From This Author Christine Swerczek