At The Stanley until June 29
Posted May 30, 2014
IF The Stanley had a retractable roof and IF the retractable roof had been open the night I saw Spamalot, this show would simply have lifted off the stage and floated away: it’s that light. It’s as fluffy as the little painted, cartoony clouds above the proscenium. Or, to pick up on a running joke, it would be like a fart in a windstorm: whisked away. There are flatulence jokes galore and jokes about soiling one’s trousers. It’s Monty Python, after all – an acquired taste that I haven’t totally succeeded in acquiring.
But the production is terrific: colourful, tuneful, wordplayingly funny. The show opens with “Finland, Finland” and a “fisch schlappping dance” because someone thought the Historian, a character who appears and reappears throughout, said “Finland” when he’d actually said “England” where we all know the tale really begins and ends. The Lady of the Lake is referred to as one of those “soggy blondes/With their backsides in ponds.” And “Alms for the poor” becomes “Arms for the poor” when the Knight of Ni loses both of his in a swordfight.
The shambling castle walls stage left and right are set designer Marshall McMahen’s first visual cue: this is going to be a story about King Arthur but not anything like the one you learned about in History 101. David Marr, best known for his Bard on the Beach performances, is the king; “How can you tell?” one peasant asks another. “He hasn’t got shit all over him” is the response.
Another way to tell he’s the king would be his plummy accent, his white suit, gold chainmail and, oh yes, his crown. Marr, not famous for his singing does extremely well and he even keeps up with Lisa Stevens’ far-from-Mediaeval choreography. Thanks to costume designer Rebekka Sorensen-Kjelstrup’s costumes, there’s more tits and ass than we ever imagined the Knights of the Round Table ever got to see back in those dark, damp, mildewy English castles circa 932AD.
We meet Dennis (Jonathan Winsby) who, once knighted, becomes Galahad with a very big smile and a charming way of tossing his yellow locks; Bedevere (Ashley O’Connell), who frequently fouls the air with his flatulence; Lancelot (Jay Hindle) whose name conveniently rhymes with “hot” and “dance a lot”; Robin (Josh Epstein), whose bowels are bothersome. Epstein comes close to stealing this show right out from under the nose of Marr and Terra C. MacLeod, the blonde in the pond – except she’s a redhead with a whole lot of attitude and a voice that could vibrate Excalibur right out of the stone.
By Act 2, the search for the Holy Grail is full on although, as one of the knights muses, surely God has more than one chalice out of which to drink? He probably has a whole bunch of them up there.
There are merry moments and ‘gay’ moments. Who knew that Lancelot, who could dance a lot, would fancy a Gwyn rather than a Guinevere? Or that Prince Herbert (Scott Perrie) would some day be a ‘queen’?
One of the best songs of the night, “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway” (“unless you have some Jews”), is sung by Epstein who sends it through that non-retractable roof.
Playing the obligatory luggage bearing, ragged servant to King Arthur is Patsy (Andrew Cownden) who’s a dab hand with a pair of coconut shells. Cownden can make the imaginary horse canter, gallop, trot and even go over jumps: “Clip (beat) clop.”
Written by Eric Idle (book, lyrics and music) and John Du Prez (music) and directed by Dean Paul Gibson with musical direction by Ken Cormier, Spamalot is a ham-it-up-a-lot Camelot and will make Arts Club artistic managing director Bill Millerd grin-a-lot on his way to the bank. It’s an audience pleaser and makes a fun-filled 50th anniversary season closer.