The movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with the appropriate fanfare and fan-related events. Thus, it seems appropriate that Spamalot, the musical stage version of this popular movie, is part of the Raleigh Little Theatre’s 2015-16 season. One would think that a 10-year-old play might be starting to show its age, but RLT‘s version of Spamalot is just as fresh and funny and irreverent as the original. The opening weekend’s sold-out crowds appreciated its hilarious originality as much as they may have when the play first hit theaters four decades earlier.
Before the curtains even open, when the Voice of God (John T. Hall) warns the audience what will happen if a cell phone rings, the laughter begins. During the opening scene, when the historian narrator (Daryl Ray Carliles) introduces the tale of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, it’s obvious that this is not the romanticized version of the heroic and legendary king, but instead, a bawdy and ridiculous look at a story that has entranced people all over the world for centuries.
The story of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, the Knights, and of Camelot itself has been told and retold by many of the most famous writers in the world. Each time the tale is told, the writer’s perspective drives the story, including which of the characters is most important or whether the love story is the driving force of the legend.
Poets have extolled Arthur’s historical leadership, Guinevere’s passion, and Lancelot’s heroism; but those elements are satirized in Monty Pythons’ version of the story (the Pythons are five of Britain’s most talented comedic actors: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, [Spamalot co-composer, lyricist, and librettist] Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin). With slapstick humor, topical gags, and a razor-sharp humor, the Arthurian romance is turned upside down.
RLT‘s Spamalot is populated by actors perfect for their roles. Mark Ridenour, a Triangle actor with extensive experience, brings a powerful singing voice and incredible stage presence to his role of the King of the Britons. His chemistry with his squire Patsy, brilliantly played by Brian Fisher — RLT‘s reigning 2015 Diva! — provides some of the deepest belly laughs of the show.
Mark Ridenour’s King Arthur is both wise and bumbling, narcissistic and driven by a need to discover himself and lead his kingdom and knights — though he often doesn’t know where. Brian Fisher balances his king well, playing the bumbling fool who is comfortable with his role as a sidekick, though it’s clear Patsy knows much more than the appropriate rhythm for clicking his coconut halves together to mimic the sound of a horse’s hooves.
Arthur’s love interest is the sassy Lady of the Lake, played with an over-the-top commitment to sensuality by Nicole Julien, the newest member of the troupe. Her first song, “Come with Me,” is kind of shaky; but she covers it well and with a Python sense of comedic timing. As she warms up to the audience, her voice becomes stronger; and by the time she has her solo in the second act with “The Diva’s Lament,” she has hit her stride and her notes.
Not to be overshadowed, Galahad and Robin, played by James Ilsley and Tony Hefner, are also well-cast. They embody the ridiculousness of their costumes, lines, and songs, embracing that silliness with such fervor that their mere presence on the stage causes titters throughout the packed house.
James Ilsley is an RLT veteran, having won the Cantey Award for best Actor; and Tony Hefner is used to playing outrageous characters like this one and others, including Edna in RLT‘s production of Hairspray and The Reverend Mother in The Divine Sister.
But the main characters aren’t the only ones who deserve credit in this production. Parker Perry’s Prince Herbert is hilarious, and Tim Cherry’s portrayals of both Sir Bedevere and Galahad’s Mother are perfect foils to the other members of the cast.
Each of the actors in the ensemble truly embodies the necessity to employ larger-than-life facial expressions and slightly awkward body movements in order to pay homage to Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s 40th anniversary.
Kudos to the director, Patrick Torres and musical directors Michael Santangelo and Bryan Phoebus, as well as choreographer Nancy Rich. Timing is critical in a play such as this one, and only with strong direction are the actors trained to work together to achieve the desired effect.
The short of it is that Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Spamalot is brilliant. It is truly a dash of great fun at the end of a hot summer and a play you should not miss! The show runs until Sept. 20th. Do yourself a favor and order your tickets today.
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 31st Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Care: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-Raleigh-Little-Theatres-MONTY-PYTHONS-SPAMALOT-20150831; Aug. 31st Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article32883306.html; and Aug. 30th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Andrea McKerlie Luke: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7568.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Monty Python’s SPAMALOT at 8 p.m. Sept. 3-5, 3 p.m. Sept. 6, 8 p.m. Sept. 10-12, 3 p.m. Sept. 13, 8 p.m. Sept. 17-19, and 3 p.m. Sept. 20 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $27 ($23 students and seniors 62+), except all seats $27 ($20 students and seniors 62+) on Thursday.
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/15-16/spamalot.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/942631419116521/.
2015-16 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/15-16/index.html.
PRESENTER: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
NOTE: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
Monty Python: http://www.montypython.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/MontyPython (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/montypython (Twitter page), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Python (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/user/MontyPython (YouTube channel).
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975 film): http://www.montypython.com/news_HG40box/198 (official web page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071853/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Python_and_the_Holy_Grail (Wikipedia).
Monty Python’s Spamalot (2005 Broadway and 2006 West End musical): http://www.montypythonsspamalot.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=384261 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamalot (Wikipedia).
Eric Idle (music, lyrics, and book): http://www.ericidle.com/ (official website), http://www.montypython.com/python_Eric_Idle/17 (Monty Python profile), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=76129 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Idle (Wikipedia).
John Du Prez (music): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=384264 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Du_Prez (Wikipedia).
Patrick Torres (RLT artistic director): https://www.facebook.com/patrick.torres.585 (Facebook page).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.