By Thom deMartino/Orange County Tribune
And now, for something completely different.
The madcap, irreverent comedy of the groundbreaking — slightly infamous — British comedy troupe Monty Python comes to life at Golden West College in their new production of “Spamalot”. Directed by Martie Ramm and based on the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and liberally seasoned with references to some of the group’s most memorable sketches (such as “Spam”, “The Lumberjack Song”, “Sit On M–” – you know what? Let’s just skip that one), the zany musical tells the story of Arthur, King of the Britons (Steve De Forest) … only this leader doesn’t have much of a following, save for his trusty, long-suffering squire, Patsy (Whitney Ackerman.) In fact, his subjects don’t even know he’s their king.
“Well, I didn’t vote for you,” muses a salty old woman to the exasperated monarch.
Desperately failing at explaining his kingly right to rule to the pair of mud-encrusted peasants Dennis (Jeff Lowe) and his mother (Jay Harbison), Arthur’s patience wears thin: for he is on a quest to find the greatest knights in the realm to sit at his very-roundish table. But it’s not going well — so he’ll just have to take what he can get.
Knighting Dennis as Sir Galahad, the king gathers the brave Sir Lancelot (Matthew Villescas), the not-so-brave Sir Robin (Mark Torres) and the stately Sir Bedevere (a quick-changing Jay Harbison) to travel to Camelot, collecting an array of eccentric would-be knights along the way. But when the misfits’ ribald reveries at the casino-like castle are divinely interrupted by the voice of God (courtesy of Python alumnus Eric Idle) commanding them to seek the legendary Holy Grail, Arthur and his men embark upon their sacred mission — and you don’t need a soothsayer to predict the hysterical results.
The search is on, over hill and dale, through wood and shrubbery — will the King and his knights find their Grail, or face the nasty, sharp, pointy teeth of doom?
Recent events remind us that value of comedy in uncertain times cannot be overstated. More and more viewers are returning to theaters to make up for nearly two years of lost time, and local Orange County venues are wasting no time themselves in welcoming audiences back and offering up a colorful variety of plays and musicals to entertain theatergoers.
“Spamalot” draws upon not just the best of the film and the troupe’s surreal comedy stylings, but takes time to develop more peripheral characters as well: Ackerman’s dutiful Patsy, faithful to a fault; distressed, melody-prone Prince Herbert and “Not Dead Fred” (both played by the charming and quite lively Jarrett Guthrie); and Torres’ fainthearted Sir Robin, nursing his budding dreams of stardom. (The Black Knight, however – played by Tyler Fewell – remains equally surly and reality-challenged.)
But the most shining example is that of the Lady of the Lake, a footnote in the original but now fully realized in all her bombastic glory by the ebullient Kalinda Gray: with some of the most standout — and funny — performances of the show, her character is a breath of fresh air for those Python devotees who know the film so exhaustively that they could recite it in their sleep.
De Forest as King Arthur has arguably the most challenging task — playing the straight man, anchoring the whole irreverent enterprise, all the while embroiled in lunatic hijinx: and anchor it he does, with style and poise.
With a stellar ensemble, captivating choreography and unusual and striking musical numbers, “Spamalot” is indeed the silly place you want to visit before the curtain sets on its madcap mayhem. Pull up a comfy chair and enjoy.
“Spamalot.” Steve De Forest, Kalinda Gray and Whitney Ackerman star in this Broadway musical adaptation of the comedy classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. Playing through May 8 at the Golden West College Mainstage Theater, 15751 Gothard St, Huntington Beach, CA 92647. Tickets available through the box office at 714-895-8150, x1 or at www.gwctheater.com.
Categories: Arts & Leisure