'Spamalot’ stirs holy gales of laughter

07/22/2013 2:28 PM

07/22/2013 5:37 PM

Who better than the fictional Monty Python to take the mythical King Arthur on a historically iffy journey in search of the legendary Holy Grail? It’s a match made in Briton, and it’s a musical made for those who can’t imagine voluntarily choosing to see a musical. The giggles, cackles and guffaws emanating from teenage boys to grandpas at Central Piedmont Community College’s Halton Theater are testament to the manly appeal of “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

CPCC Artistic Director Tom Hollis directs this musical comedy spoof with a depth of talent, costumes and set design worthy of a Broadway show. Monty Python co-creator Eric Idle wrote the book, and co-wrote the score with John Du Prez. Much of the material is admittedly purloined from the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” It holds up surprisingly well, considering the movie was made in 1975, and the play appeared on Broadway in 2005. Nominated for 12 Tony Awards and 10 Drama Desk Awards, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” won three of each.

Like all good comedy, the show has potential to entertain on multiple levels. Those with a rich knowledge of history might be appalled at the historical distortions, but will most likely delight in knowing what is being distorted. Those who love Monty Python will embrace the familiar parody. Broadway aficionados will recognize how “Spamalot” makes fun of Broadway. And if all that goes over your head, there’s the most imaginative stream of French insults you’ve ever heard.

From the “Fisch Schlapping Song” that errantly celebrates the people of Finland, to the reprise of “The Song That Goes Like This,” (my date laughed so loud he forgot he was at a musical), the play is defined by silly lyrics full of wordplay and punnery, delivered by a solid ensemble of singing dancers. Just say “Fisch Schlapping” out loud. It’s funny. As to the rest of the gags, they are too delicious to give away.

As King Arthur, James Flynn could steal the show, but he doesn’t. Instead he plays the straight man and lets the cast of quirky characters share the limelight. Brandon Riddle is a standout as Sir Robin, who displays star power at the center of “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” Other notables are Michael Lawrence as Sir Lancelot (he knows how to flip that hair!), and Craig Estep as Patsy. Patsy’s coconut hoof steps provide the show with a humorous heartbeat that shouldn’t be underestimated.

And then there is the mystical, erotic Lady of the Lake, who plays muse to the befuddled Arthur. Lucia Stetson has both voice and presence. She can kick it out Janis Joplin style, and then segue back into quintessential Broadway melodrama. Costume Designer Jennifer Matthews must have had fun making her shimmer and shine.

This is the final musical of CPCC’s 40th summer season. It’s a great chance to see a quality production at a bargain price, in a lovely facility. The live music alone is worth the price of admission.

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