Review: Clippity Clop Orlando Shakes' SPAMALOT Rises to Expectations 9/18 7pm

By: Sep. 21, 2015
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Ten years ago MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Now to kick off Orlando Shakespeare Theater's 27th Season, MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT clippity clops its way to the Orlando stage with great enthusiasm. Monty Python fans and theater fans alike will be find this show royally entertaining. With laugh out loud surreal comedy and great music, SPAMALOT is everything it needed to be for a season opener.

Based off the classic film Monty Python and The Holy Grail, this musical tells the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. As expected, the Knights go on a quest for the Holy Grail and just like in the film, they encounter killer rabbits, Frenchmen, The Black Knight, and other ridiculous icons. So if you liked the film, add in Broadway music and dancing with some satire and you've got yourself a hit. The tone is gaudy and it all pokes fun at all musical theater, but it is fun and lighthearted.

I associate Shakespeare with tragedy and while Orlando Shakes does tragedy really well i.e. LES MIS; Shakes really does comedy spectacularly. This season opener was thoroughly entertaining with all the bells and whistles that it needed to have. If you saw last year's production of LES MISERABLES then be on the lookout for some "Easter Eggs" placed throughout SPAMALOT. A bunch of last year's LES MIS actors are also leading the way in SPAMALOT this year, namely Davis Gaines and Michael Hunsaker.

Davis Gaines returns to the Orlando Shakes stage. Instead of being the depressing Inspector Javert, Gaines takes on the role of King Arthur. This role suits Gaines much better. As Arthur, Gaines is a good leader with pie-in-the-sky rhetoric and good comedic timing. Arthur knows how to rally the troops and has some great song and dance numbers like "All For One" and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." Arthur seems to have a decent relationship with the other characters, but more so with the Lady of the Lake.

At this performance on September 18th, the Lady of the Lake was played by Allyssa Yost. I previously caught Allyssa as an understudy in last month's Gen Y Production of HEATHERS. Attention casting folks: Allyssa really needs to be cast as a lead, instead of an understudy. Not only does Yost's powerful voice handle the Lady of the Lake's riffs and belts like a pro in "Find Your Grail," but she also nails the diva and comedienne role too, like in Act II's "Whatever Happened to My Part." I would have liked to see Dee Roscioli, but was completely satisfied seeing this young local artist take on the role. (Check out Matt's interview with the Lady of the Lake, Dee Roscioli.)

Another LES MIS veteran Michael Hunsaker who played Jean Valjean last year, returns as Sir Galahad a.k.a. Dennis. Again, a very different role than last year, but it turns out Michael Hunsaker is also very funny. While Galahad's part may not have been as vocally demanding, having a much larger dancing role is equally challenging. Galahad and the Lady of the Lake have a great number that pokes fun at my most favorite musical in the world in "The Song That Goes Like This."

Brad DePlanche plays the underrated Patsy, who is King Arthur's squire. Brad and his coconuts kept the crowd entertained. He can sing, he can dance, and he is the buddy everyone needs. (Check out my interview with Brad as he prepared for his role.)

I am a huge fan of well choreographed and well staged shows. As choreographer, Billy Sprague Jr. does a great job utilizing the space. The dancing is Broadway-style entertaining. Those Laker Girls and Male Ensemble Members showcased a variety of different dance techniques without dropping a cup! The direction provided by Orlando Shakes legend, Jim Helsinger used the space to his advantage; used the comedy to his advantage; and overall put on a great production. You can tell that Helsinger always has his audience in mind when making decisions.

Once again the Orlando Shakes team spared no expense in their set design and costumes. The Lady of the Lakes' beautiful dresses were my favorite, but there were so many costume pieces worn by many of the ensemble it's hard to pick. The design of the Margeson Theater makes the production feel more intimate than a traditional stage. There are great set pieces and "special effects," along with some projections. There is use of the aisles and the boxes of the theater. A+ for musical direction by Steve MacKinnon. SPAMALOT has a live orchestra that sits on-stage, but behind set pieces. The experience is a much richer sound, which is so much better than actors singing to a track.

Directed by Jim Helsinger, MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT runs at Orlando Shakespeare Theater now through October 11, 2015. Tickets are selling out quickly, so reserve yours soon! For showtimes and ticket information visit

Photo credit: Landon St. Gordon