L to R: Nick Serrone, Carl Dahlquist, Laurence Cox (King Arthur ), Stephen Radley, James Pennington.
Photo: Garry Bastian Photography.
By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
In the words of the immortal Monty Python, “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” What is left out, but implied, is that sometimes you need to be extremely, ridiculously, absurdly silly. The British comedy troupe Monty Python has succeeded in capturing the enduring loyalty of American audiences in a way that other classic Britcoms (think Benny Hill, Rowan Atkinson, the “Carry On” franchise) have utterly failed. HART Theatre’s production of Spamalot brilliantly illustrates the point –opening night brought a full house of enthusiastic devotees of this uniquely British art (?) form.
Those unfamiliar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, on which the musical is based, may find the production puzzling – nothing in their previous lives will have prepared them for uproarious laughter about a shrubbery – but such Python novitiates (and it is a religion) are encouraged to just sit back, forget about reason, and enjoy the silliness.
Given the theater’s small size, Director Dorinda Toner and her production staff have done a remarkable job of bringing a very large show (there are 22 performers, and countless costume changes) to the space available. It helps that they use (very well) pre-recorded music – there’s no place to put an orchestra, and the complexity of the score would be ill-served by basic piano, bass and drums. The set is striking – a detailed castle structure that serves a multitude of purposes while constantly reinforcing the Arthurian ambience of the story line.
While the six Laker Girls form an energetic and cohesive vocal and dance ensemble, Mila Boyd (“Lady of the Lake”) holds the only starring female role, and she nails it. Her amazing voice, dark beauty, and lithe body are perfect for the role of an over-the-top siren/seductress. She delivers solidly on several key songs, nowhere more so than in her pathos-ridden rendition of “Whatever Happened to My Part?”
The pivotal role of King Arthur is nobly filled by Laurence Cox, whose regal bearing never falters as he strives to turn his motley crew into the Knights of the Round Table. He confidently prances across the stage, keeping perfect time with the coconut-clapping hoofbeats of Patsy (Brian Kennedy), his loyal page. The pair are especially moving in the tragic ballad “I’m All Alone” – Cox for his angst-ridden solo, Kennedy for his mute protest. The four principal knights, Sir Lancelot (Nick Serrone), Sir Robin (Stephen Radley), Sir Galahad (James Pennington), and Sir Bedevere (Carl Dahlquist) bring a quirkily novel interpretation of knightly valor – sort of Camelot meets The Village People. Andy Roberts is utterly captivating as both the French Taunter and the Knight of Ni – his Franglais accent suitably execrable, his knightly bearing commanding and imperious.
The ensemble is vocally tight, and there are several impressive moments of outstanding tap dancing by both the men and the women. The juxtaposition of serious stagecraft and absurdist humor gives Spamalot the cheery gravitas it needs to keep the customers satisfied. In the final singalong, the audience is exhorted to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and the HART production provides ample support for this philosophy!
HART Theatre’s production of Spamalot runs through June 21st, with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. A special performance has been added at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 21st.