And now for something completely different, appearing knightly at Casa Mañana.
Actually, the hit musical comedy Spamalot, written by ex-Monty Python inmate Eric Idle in partnership with John Du Prez, which opened at Casa on Saturday, has been so warmly accepted into the mainstream that it may not qualify as being as “completely different” as Idle’s British comedy troupe prided themselves on being. But that does not mean that this show is not still funny enough to make you split your chain mail — especially in this polished, glossy and universally well-executed production.
This 2005 show, based on the ridiculously hilarious film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is a sendup of all things Arthurian. As our hero-king bravely ventures forth in quest of the golden goblet, he gathers a motley crew of knights whose lack of brains is exceeded only by their dearth of bravery. They are stymied at every turn by obstacles ranging from strange knights who demand landscaping plants in return for safe passage, to a killer rabbit that requires the desperate employment of a super weapon — the Holy Hand Grenade.
But nothing can sway King Arthur (Jeff McCarthy) from his unfailingly inept hunt for the chalice God has ordered him to find — not even French knights who threaten to “fart in his general direction.”
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Yes, such is the intellectual level of Spamalot’s sense of humor. But it also tosses in some discussion of political systems that would daunt a poli-sci professor. So you just never know what to expect from this musical, and that is the beauty of it.
This material is so good that it has proved to work well even in the hands of amateur players. But with the well-credentialed, professional cast and crew assembled for this dazzling production, it is possible to enjoy this musical in all its glory.
McCarthy is an able Arthur who makes his comedy work by playing things completely straight. Julia Murney seems to be trying her best to overplay her role as the Lady of the Lake by tossing in such extreme measures as doing a sendup of Liza Minnelli in one of her numbers. But fortunately, Murney knows that it is impossible to go too far with her watery part. She is just having all the fun she should have with her role.
Among the other out-of-towners brought in for this production, Robb Sapp (as Arthur’s squire, Patsy) and John Scherer (as Sir Robin and several other characters) stand out. But more than holding his own with those fine players is local actor Christopher J. Deaton, who also juggles multiple parts with ease.
Finally, a chorus line rich in local talent provides exclamation points for some of the flashy production numbers.
All this silliness is superbly underscored by music director James Cunningham and his nine-piece pit orchestra. Tim Hatley’s costume designs are exceptionally detailed (and often funny). Adam Koch’s scenic design is slick and appealing. The flow of the show is exceptional thanks to the efforts of director Hunter Foster (who, like some of the players, has extensive Broadway credits) and choreographer Jeremy Dumont.
If you are a Python fan, you don’t need any encouragement to seek out this comedy like it was a lost religious relic. But any fan of musicals is apt to get a kick out of this show. which so frequently pokes fun at the cliches of its own form. .