BWW Reviews: SPAMALOT Ferocious, Fast-Paced Comedy Smash
Cult comedy fans, Flying Circus die-hards, and plain-old British film connoisseurs will all walk into MNM Production's production with high expectations for quality and delivery of some of comedy's most memorable witticisms. Taking the helm of Eric Idle's "lovingly ripped off" Monty Python's Spamalot is returning-MNM director/ choreographer Kimberly Dawn Smith, whose smart attention to the nuances inherent to the Rinker, utilization of the wondrously strong cast, and obvious love of the absurdity power her Spamalot through the few brief stumbles to deliver a side-splitting evening.
Monty Python's Spamalot is a theatrically re-rendered edition of the 1975 film smash Monty Python and the Holy Grail, taking much of the same sketch humor and wobbly plot-line. As per the film, Spamalot follows King Arthur's quest to join together a merry band of knights, for the first act, and then a jolly hunt for the (film's) titular Grail. Eric Idle maneuvered the film's most memorable scenes into a new sequence that includes meta-theatrical numbers, fourth-wall shatterers, and more surprises in store.
What director Smith nails so eloquently on the head is the volatile humor within the breast of each original cast member, down to the lowest ensemble. Her show is framed by this character-heavy humor, where every scene seems to be a rotating device for her to showcase the best of the community's comedic performances. The faux-vignette musical shines when her heavy-weights don an accent and silly outfit to smash funny bones.
Spamalot's leading star comes in the form of the mythical Lady of the Lake, played by the hilariously exasperated Laura Hodos. Her melodrama, combined with excellent improv and quick-wit delivery during the show's most enjoyable numbers, give Hodos the show's biggest draw. From her triumphant belting 'Find Your Grail' to Act 2's reprise of her 'Song That Goes Like This', Hodos continues to give a spectacular definition and charm to one of the best comedic roles in the last two decades.
Not far behind is JohnBarry Green's King Arthur, the bumbling illiterate king that gives off lighter shades and brighter smiles than Tim Curry. His chemistry works wonders with the knights and Hodos, and his antipathy to Patsy in 'I'm All Alone' is a late-show hit. His Patsy, the cheery Andrew Shultz, plays well in the show's famous 'Always Look On the Bright Side of Life' - Shultz' smart tenor sings in the number. The only problem for the duo arises in the lack of an exhausted straight man (usually played by Patsy), with Shutlz' ceaselessly endearing smile and charm seeming to negate the frustration inherent to the lackey.
One knight of notice is the delightfully disbelieving Dennis; Mike Westrich, one of South Florida's more prolific performers, tears the stage apart from his galavanting Galahad to his brief stints as other characters (Herbert's father being a noted high). His initial scenes as Dennis/Galahad work wonders to mark the show's energy uptake from absurd and choppy sketches into the more linear narrative, something Westrich smoothes out with his believably unbelievable performances.
The rest of the cast is stupendous when they take the lead- there aren't any holes to see in this grail. Some of the blink-and-you'll-miss-them characters are a joy, down to little Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show (the high kicking Kyle Laing) and the insane number of characters played by the flawless Joshua McKinney. There isn't a performative slight to mention in this quick moving laugh fest.
The few minor stumbles that befall Smith's Spamalot are also some of the things that make her show more entertaining- the conundrum of space restrictions is a curse. The Rinker Playhouse is a wonderful venue that she has designed to her need with scenic designer Cindi Taylor's simple but effective set (the Black Knight scene was a challenge you executed with deliberate strokes) and lighting designer Jayson Tomasheski's simple plot. The space restrictions have unfortunately forced the orchestra, an otherwise beautifully playing one led by Paul Reekie, almost into the audiences' lap. The very visible and present orchestra removes some of the show's earlier and scattered laughs dependent on the orchestra's adherence to the hidden remnants of the house- nevertheless, some of these punch lines still land ('The Song That Goes Like This').
The shocking part of her limitations is in how well she pulls off the low-budget, single set production that depends on grandeur and deliberate jokes focused on the show's opulence. Between her decisions and the cast's delivery, fans of Spamalot who wonder how the very expensive forest or 'Knights of the Round Table' will appear in the thrust-less space will find their expectations used against them.
Smith and cast's attention to the deliberate destruction of wall the fourth may be a high or low point depending on each audience. Personally, the constant reminders of the show's absurdity, allusions to other Broadway classics (including ones very MNM Production centric), and Hodos' own pointed jabs on the first rows, all felt a hilarious addition to the forcibly personal space.
Whether in it for the Monty Python infamy, or coming to see just how scary a killer rabbit can be, MNM Production's Spamalot is just going deliver strong laughs, plain and simple. From Smith's exception cast comes a pure comedy experience that shouldn't be passed over, especially with such a production - who else is giving Palm Beach eight show weeks to rival New York theatre schedules? It's worth that one look on the brighter side, to ignore those few blemishes inherent to a fledgling company, and to just simply enjoy a delightful comedy when it rides into town on two coconuts.
Monty Python's Spamalot plays May 19th-June 4th at the Rinker Playhouse. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.