MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT Is A Silly Spectacle Of A Good Time At The Stratford Festival

To put it simply, it’s silly and it’s a good time – And sometimes, that’s exactly what we’re looking for.

By: Jun. 01, 2023
MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT Is A Silly Spectacle Of A Good Time At The Stratford Festival

It’s not uncommon to find a King onstage at the Stratford Festival. In fact, Lear and Richard II are making appearances this very season. Other iterations of King Arthur have even walked the boards from time to time. But this is almost certainly the first time a King has trotted across the stage on an imaginary horse whilst his trusted sidekick makes horse hoof sounds with coconut shells. It’s about time!

MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT opened last night at the Stratford Festival’s Avon Theatre. To put it simply, it’s silly and it’s a good time – And sometimes, that’s exactly what we’re looking for.

For the uninitiated, this musical is the 2005 brainchild of Eric Idle – one of the founding members of the famed Monty Python comedy troupe. Music is by John Du Prez – a long time collaborator with Monty Python. Monty Python fans will recognize plotlines and characters from Monty Python and the Holy Grail as well as other classic ‘bits’ from the troupe. The Black Knight, Tim the Enchanter, the Knights who say “Ni”, the killer rabbit – you will find them all here. SPAMALOT follows the story (sort of) of King Arthur (Jonathan Goad) and the Knights of the Round Table as they embark on a quest in search of The Holy Grail…and also a shrub…and also Broadway. They are guided on their quest by the Lady of the Lake (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) and an assortment of other characters. Throughout their journey, we the audience learn that the fourth wall is merely a suggestion, and that there is never a wrong time for song and dance spectacle or a clever comedy bit.

Given that an eventual part of Arthur’s quest is to make it to Broadway (or at least “a Broadway-style musical, slightly north of Broadway”), it’s fitting that this show is filled to the brim with musical theatre references – several of which appear to be clever liberties taken by director Lezlie Wade and the performers. From Aaron Krohn (who brilliantly plays too many roles to list) rattling off musical lyrics as part of what the Knights who say “Ni” now say (the content of which almost certainly changes every day), to Jennifer Rider-Shaw’s Lady of the Lake making some of her entrances and exits on a ‘Phantom of the Opera’ style gondola – at one point with the Phantom quite literally just chilling in the back of the boat – musical theatre fans will surely appreciate it all.

It has been a while since Stratford audiences have seen Jonathan Goad in a musical. Those who are only familiar with him from plays like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD or the multitude of Shakespearean roles he has played throughout his career, are in for a treat! Goad dives head first into the ridiculousness of this material (that truly is the only way to do it) and he is incredibly endearing as he does so.

Another veteran of the Stratford Festival, Rider-Shaw, appears to be having the time of her life hamming it up as the Lady of the Lake. She is equal parts outrageously funny and outrageously talented and she manages to find a perfect balance of both. She brings the house down with "The Diva’s Lament" in the second Act. If you had the opportunity to see Rider-Shaw as Velma in CHICAGO last season, picture her “Can’t Do it Alone” number, add steroids, bottle it up, shake it, and then pop the cork. That’s what you get from Rider-Shaw every moment she is on stage, and it will most definitely leave you wanting more (something the Lady of the Lake herself would agree you should have gotten).

Every member of this endlessly talented cast has a moment to shine. To name but a few, Trevor Patt is a delight as Sir Robin, Eddie Glen has us all wanting to hug Patsy, and Liam Tobin makes quite the impression in his Stratford debut as Dennis Galahad. Many of the leads play multiple characters, but quite frankly, no one is busier than the ensemble of this production. The athleticism and dance skill in a Stratford Festival production never ceases to impress and the choreography by Jesse Robb is fun and fresh. Designer David Boechler’s set is certainly a nod to the original production, with some clever original ideas – including the aforementioned Gondola and a nightclub that Krohn’s Lancelot finds himself in that, in this production is giving (a little) less ‘Copacobana’ and more ‘KitKatClub’.

This is not a musical that will challenge you and make you think. It’s fun and it’s silly. That said, it’s a non-stop good time, and it’s simplicity ironically adds a dash of profundity. Songs like “I’m All Alone” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” are comedic first, but they also have a way of connecting directly to your soul. And sometimes your soul just needs a good laugh.

MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT continues in Repertory until October 28th.

Photo Credit: David Hou


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