The latest version of "Spamalot" to canter across a Buffalo stage is firing on all coconuts, er, cylinders, in a joyfully rambunctious production at the Kavinoky Theatre.
Yes yes yes yes the cast of 19 talented performers is wonderful in more than 50 roles, and we will raise a grail to them in a minute. First, though, full credit and a forehead-to-floorboard bow must be given to director and choreographer Lynne Kurdziel Formato, who channels the spirit of creator Eric Idle and all things Monty Python into the show with near perfection.
From the dancing, fish-slapping Finns of the opening number ("Not Finland! I said ENGLAND!") and the can-can kicking and miming "French people" surrounding the giant wooden bunny ("Eet could be some sort of Easter zing," zee French soldier says) to King Arthur's hapless Knights of the Round Table themselves, Kurdziel Formato keeps the silliness level in the stratosphere, wasting no breath on trying to have it make sense.
Because, as "Spamalot" itself makes clear, the Arthurian legend does not, in truth, make much sense. King Arthur himself (played with humble majesty by Greg Gjurich) has a touch of bother explaining to skeptical peasants (Dudney Joseph and Doug Weyand as his mother) how he earned his crown, when he was given Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake. Strange women handing out swords from ponds is no way to set up a government, the peasants respond.
Maybe not, but it gives the show a chance to bring out Michelle Marie Roberts as the Lady of the Lake, which alone is reason enough to see "Spamalot." The Lady's character didn't make the cut for the 1975 film that inspired most of the story, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," an oversight more than corrected here.
Her numbers are among the best parts of the show, and we share her pain when, after an extended absence from her scenes in Act I, she returns to sing "The Diva's Lament (Whatever Happened to My Part?)." With her beautiful voice and excellent comic timing, Roberts is a standout.
And she has a lot of company. Timing is everything when dealing with the deadpan delivery required for so much of the ridiculous dialogue, and this cast has mastered it from top to bottom. Arin Lee Dandes shines as Patsy, the servant/coconut clapper who attends to Arthur, owning the stage as she silently mugs her irritation while Arthur sings "I'm All Alone."
Louis Colaiacovo is the violence-averse Sir Robin, who prefers dancing to lancing, and Steve Copps switches effortlessly from Sir Lancelot's murderous mayhem to raining raunchy taunts upon the knights as a guard on the battlements of a French castle.
Bobby Cooke helps keep things on wacky track as Sir Bedevere, while Kevin R. Kennedy looks like he is having more fun than anyone as the sober historian, a minstrel, a guard and the desperate, delicate Prince Herbert, locked in a tower with a song trapped in his heart.
The rest of the large cast is equally engaging, with Dan Urtz, in six different roles, getting as much stage time as the leads. David King's set design, with soaring castle walls and multiple exit and entrance portals, facilitates the impressive number of full costume changes, as the ensemble members transform into Vegas showgirls, French wenches, monks and nuns, knights and maidens, knights who want shrubbery and one -- Dudney Joseph again -- who gets his arms and legs chopped off. Only a flesh wound indeed.
Once upon a time, in a Broadway show from long, long ago, a famous lyricist wrote that "there's simply not / a more congenial spot / for happily after" than Camelot. Congenial it may be, but for a happy-right-now night out, "Spamalot" will likely leave you whistling a different tune, one that reminds you to always look on the bright side of life.
"Spamalot" by Kavinoky Theatre
4 stars (out of four)
Stellar version of Eric Idle's Monty Pyton-esque musical mashup of the Arthurian legend and quest for the Holy Grail. Directed by Lynne Kurdziel Formato. Runs through Feb. 3 at Kavinoky Theatre at D'Youville College (320 Porter Ave). Tickets, $40-$45, are available through kavinokytheatre.com.
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