By Matt Chandler
NEWS CONTRIBUTING REVIEWER
To call “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” a cult classic is no overstatement. It’s the type of film so iconic that even those who claim to have never seen the movie can recall King Arthur’s clomping “horse” and the ghoulish chant of “bring out your dead.”
Adapted for the stage in 2005, the parody of a parody, “Spamalot” opened at The Lancaster Opera House Friday evening. If opening night was any indication, fans of the British comedy troupe are in for plenty of laughs with a production that delivers the surreal humor of John Cleese and Co. with pinpoint accuracy.
If you’re old enough to read this, you know the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Now imagine a world where Arthur is a wandering, insecure leader, sent on a quest to prove his worth. Add in dancing monks, cheerleaders, a blood-thirsty bunny rabbit, a troupe of not-quite-dead dancers and a Knight with a penchant for soiling himself at inopportune moments and you’ve got the foundation for two hours of laugh-out-loud comedy.
King Arthur (Thomas LaChiusa) travels the countryside in a feeble effort to recruit Knights to join him in Camelot. Accompanied by his faithful sidekick (and coconut clomper) Patsy (Scot Kaitanowski), Arthur gathers a collection of hapless misfits and upon receiving a message from God (voiced by Eric Idle, an original member of Monty Python) the group sets off in search of the Holy Grail.
LaChiusa is serviceable as the flawed King Arthur. He has moments where he shines, but too often he struggles to hold your attention and given his impressive resume, it feels like LaChiusa left his best on the rehearsal stage.
But the beauty of “Spamalot” is that it is a true ensemble effort and the supporting cast is spectacular.
Jessica Hall in the role of the Lady of the Lake shows off a voice as beautiful as any you’ll hear in a local theater production. She is the ideal combination of beauty, humor, and a voice that leaves you wanting more.
Along the way we meet Sir Robin (Nathan Andrew Miller), Sir Lancelot (Brett Anthony Klaczyk) and Sir Dennis Galahad (Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton) a trio that will keep you in stiches all night long.
Is Lancelot the manliest man in Camelot, slaying everyone in his path or is he hiding a secret side from King Arthur? Klaczyk is charming as he takes Lancelot from sword wielding brute to bedazzled dancer, culminating in a Village People number, “His Name is Lancelot,” that brought down the house.
It can’t be easy playing a meek, diminutive man thrust into the pressure of being a knight, only to lose control of your bowels at the most critical times. As Sir Robin, Miller is the ultimate lovable loser, the underdog you find yourself rooting for. Miller also shows off an impressive voice, especially during what is arguably the funniest song of the night, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” While it won’t win any favor from the politically correct crowd, you’ll laugh even if you shouldn’t and Miller is to be lauded for his efforts.
Likewise for Toniazzo-Naughton, who truly makes the show. As Dennis, Arthur’s first Knight, he is the one to knock the King from his pedestal with his wry, insightful political discourse. It is vintage Python humor, and it could easily fall flat with a lesser actor, but Toniazzo-Naughton was up to the task and delivered a wonderful scene that set the table for the rest of the production. He is also outstanding in his roles as the flatulent French Taunter and the Black Knight, delivering the iconic fight scene with King Arthur — “It’s just a flesh wound.”
With excellent pacing, a surprisingly strong cast of voices and actors with the chops to coax out the nuances of Python humor at every turn, “Spamalot” offers a strong start to the 2015-16 theatre season.
3 1/2 Stars (Out of four)
The musical adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.