Let me say right off the bat that I am a huge fan of the Arthurian Legend. I have always been intrigued by the story of Camelot, King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. Although there are many different versions of this basic story, North Carolina Theatre offers many a side-splitting twist on these familiar stories in its antic presentation of Monty Python’s Spamalot!
For those who are not familiar with Arthurian Legend, it is a tale of gallant knights, heroic quests for the Holy Grail, love, honor, and the magical royal court of Camelot. Spamalot is a slapstick parody, loosely based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was created by the deliciously twisted minds of the surreal British comedy group known as Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This group consisted of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. The music for Spamalot was written by John Du Prez, with co-composer, lyricist, and librettist Eric Idle.
NCT’s version of the 2005 Broadway and 2006 West End musical stars Jeff McCarthy as King Arthur, the slightly confused yet proud monarch. In order for Arthur to complete his quest to find the Holy Grail, he must first assemble a group of brave knights to join him in his quest. He is also accompanied by his faithful coconut-shell-wielding servant Patsy, played by Brandon Haagenson. Patsy is a good contrast to Arthur, offering a voice of clarity and humor often at the King’s expense.
Sir Robin the Brave (or not so brave) is played by James Ludwig, who does a wonderful job at playing bawdy bathroom and other topical humor, yet showing Robin as a fun-loving Broadway hopeful. Jacob Smith is the handsome and dashing Sir Dennis Galahad. He embraces his character and utilizes his charms.
We discover that the loyal thrill-seeking Sir Lancelot may not be the man thyat he appears to be. Danny Bernardy has a lot of fun during this revelation. He also doubles as the role of French Taunter, which unfortunately is inaudible at times. Rounding out the knights table is Benny Elledge as Sir Bedevere, the unfortunate flatulent scholar. Although many of the actors portray multiple roles, Pierce Cassedy is the most versatile. He effectively portrays six distinctly different parts.
The mysterious Lady of the Lake is played by Ta’Rea Campbell, who has a rich velvet, soulful voice, when she is confident in her notes. Perhaps, some of the notes, such as in the duet of “The song that goes like this” were a little too low and not fully in her range. But she owned the stage in true diva fashion with “The Diva’s Lament”.
Rounding out the superb ensemble cast are J.R. Bruno, Leilani Carr, Elise Dwenger, Beth Green, Carly Grissom, Kinsland Howell, Joshua Keen, Ben Lanham, Kelsey Orem, Jack Richardson, Deon Ridley, Jose Rondon, Jr., and Peyton Royal. Many of these actors are current North Carolina Theatre Conservatory students or alumni, and are the backbone of the show. They bring life to the highly energetic choreography by Brian J. Marcum. The tap-dance routine for the song “Knights of the Round Table” was very reminiscent of Fred Astaire, whereas “His Name Is Lancelot” could rival any current Vegas show.
With a show like this, timing is everything. Jennifer Werner did a great of effectively directing such a large cast. The beautiful set — originally created for Phoenix Entertainment of Frederick, MD — is brilliantly utilized; and the medieval outfits — also originally created Phoenix Entertainment — are some of the most stunning costumes that I’ve ever seen.
There were, however, a few opening-night technical and costume glitches. A prosthetic scar fell off of a plague victim, the cart to bring out your dead got stuck on scenery, and a costume piece was left on the stage. I’m sure these went unnoticed to the untrained eye; and although unintentional, to me added a little more humor to the show. That’s also part of what makes live theater so much fun, the fact that anything can happen.
The show is full of Marx Brothers-style wit and timing. It is slightly naughty, bawdy, and a belly full of laughs. I’m not going to tell you where or if the Holy Grail is found, nor will I reveal the true identity of the mysterious Lady of the Lake. You will have to go see the show for the answers to these questions and many other of life’s mysteries. With the brilliant writing of Monty Python and the high energy that this cast, crew, and orchestra brings to this production, you can’t help but to “Look on the Bright Side of Life!”
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 16th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-North-Carolina-Theatres-MONTY-PYTHONS-SPAMALOT-20161116; and Nov. 16th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article115106353.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 15th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/11/monty-pythons-spamalot-at-nct-savagely-satirizes-king-arthur-and-his-knights-of-the-round-table/.)
The North Carolina Theatre presents Monty Python’s SPAMALOT at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16-18 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $23.56-$109.14, except $25 Tickets with your College Student ID.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/927819.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 6949; firstname.lastname@example.org; or http://nctheatre.com/groups.
SHOW: http://nctheatre.com/shows/spamalot, https://www.facebook.com/events/637072396458317/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/spamalot-6695.
2016-17 SEASON: http://nctheatre.com/show-season/201516-season.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Energy_Center_for_the_Performing_Arts#Raleigh_Memorial_Auditorium.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19th, performance.
Monty Python (British comedy troupe, formed in 1969): 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.montypython.com/liveshow_Monty%20Python’s%20Spamalot%20%28from%202005%29/8 (Monty Python web page), http://www.ericidle.com/spamalot.html (Eric Idle’s web page), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/spamalot-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).
Jennifer Werner (NCT guest director): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jennifer-werner-108311 (Internet Broadway Database).
Brian J. Marcum (NCT guest choreographer): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/brian-j-marcum-46541 (Internet Broadway Database).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.