Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Broadway Series, “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, Sunday May 3rd

Speaking of going from the sublime to the ridiculous (or, "And now for something completely different"--).

The Broadway Series is another one we look at often, but seldom buy. This is the organization that brings road companies (usually musicals) into town. We don’t often see ones we want, but “Spamalot” was a must. Georgie had gotten a CD of the score and found it quite enchanting and fun, and since I am a big fan of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” it was a natural for us.

The Marcus Center had a special event that I went to when single tickets went on sale (complete with a surprisingly good buffet of Spam hors d’oveurs). I was in line in good time to have choice of seats, and was rather bemused to see that the entire hall had been priced on a two-tiered plan: main floor, boxes, and side loge were all one price, center loge and balcony another. When I got to the ticket window, for the heck of it, I asked if any box seats were available. They were, and I got two in the front row center of the box section, which is actually a mezzanine but has exceptionally good sight lines. The Marcus Center boxes aren’t very luxurious compared with some other theatres, but do have more elbow and leg room than standard seats, and Georgie was delighted with our location.

If you are at all familiar with “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the plot needs no introduction. If you are not, it defies all explanation, save to say that it is a very loose satire of the Arthurian Grail quest story as done by Monty Python, with all that implies in the way of breaking the fourth wall, anachronistic popular culture references, shameless theft (sometimes from themselves), a bit of naughtiness, and off-the-wall wackiness.

The role of “King Arthur” was played by Gary Beach, who is a Broadway veteran with a strong singing voice, and even better declamatory tone in the speaking tone. The script makes his character more active and engaged than Graham Chapman’s clueless and frustrated movie Arthur, a necessary change for musical theatre which works well.

The role of The Lady of the Lake (Esther Stillwell) is a major addition to the movie plot, since the film had no major female characters. In Python tradition, some of the female parts are done by men in travestie, but there is a small female chorus who appear as the Lady’s handmaidens and other background roles. Ms. Stillwell has an excellent voice for the role, poses well in costume, and has a good “diva” manner essential to some of the humor she is given. She also manages to keep up with the men in mimicking bits from other show styles and entertainers in aid of the satire. One nice thing about the Lady of Lake’s presence is that, after the marked left turn the already corkscrewing plot takes in the “very expensive forest,” she provides a nicely ironic way for the show to end, as opposed to the movie which kind of peters out.

Other major players included James Beaman as Sir Robin/Guard 1/Brother Maynard, Patrick Heusinger as Sir Launcelot/The French Taunter/Tim the Enchanter, Ben Davis as Sir Galahad/The Black Knight/King of Swamp Castle, and Christopher Gurr as Sir Bedevere et al. Christopher Sutton was a major supporter as the Historian, Not Dead Fred, Minstrel, and Prince Herbert.

The staging and costumes were nicely done with some nifty effects, including projections that brought in some of the Gilliam-style graphics and animations. We enjoyed the entire performance very much.

In light of my previous post, it would appear that musical theatre (or at least Monty Python) is in less danger of dying out, as I noted lots of young people in the audience--.
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