BWW Reviews: SPAMALOT at Playhouse Merced Full of Laughs

BWW Reviews: SPAMALOT at Playhouse Merced Full of Laughs

And the Arthur Award goes to... Playhouse Merced for its production of Monty Python's Spamalot. Actually, the production, which plays now through May 24, could win several "Arthur" awards: Best use of "Sir Not Appearing." Best use of original staging. Best reference to previous season shows. Honorable Mention for calling out the visiting reviewer during the second act.

Saturday evening's show lacked a certain finesse and a few traditional elements found in most productions of Spamalot - no Lady of the Lake strip tease, no thong or Caribbean YMCA for a certain leading man - but Merced knows how to make an often-done musical new. In the appropriate words of Monty Python, Playhouse Merced's production provides "something completely different."

A few questionable costume choices are likely due to budget. But designer Cindy Strauss also provides incredibly detailed and telling garbs for the Knights of the Round Table, who follow King Arthur (the extremely talented Ryan Dziadosz) on his quest for the Holy Grail. And the Knights who say Ni sport amusing bird nests for hats as they eagerly assail Arthur and his men. RC Essig, who spends the majority of his stage time as the brawny Lancelot, shines best as the leader of the Knights of Ni, as well as Tim the Enchanter. As is most often the case with Monty Python, multiple actors play multiple roles. Colton Dennis plays Sir Bedevere, but also dons a dress and wig as Dennis's Mother. GB Blackmon III makes both an enthusiastic, refreshing Sir Galahad and a not-so-intimidating Black Knight. And Corey Strauss teaches the knights a thing or two about Broadway musicals, on occasion switching to smaller, but memorable roles. Straus also designed the fantastic castle set.

Spamalot glorifies role-playing while providing a few inspirational moments in numbers like the positive finale and the foot-tapping "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (sung with a solid, pleasant voice by Sergio Lopez as manservant Patsy). The laughs never end, and for those who have seen the show before, Playhouse Merced gives occasion for merriment in surprising moments. The company's wholehearted cast delivers priceless facial expressions and energy throughout, although ensemble members Noelle Chandler and Alejandro Arellano deserve special mention here.

Playhouse Merced
Through May 24

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