Often, I am asked about less expensive theater. There are many people who although they love “live theater” are confined to only a few shows due to the high cost of entertainment. Of course, Chicago ticket prices are far below those in New York, but for many , even a $75 ticket price is one they cannot afford. That is why I cover some of the smaller venues- Theatre Wit, Stage 773, TheoUbique, Strawdog and many others- quality theater at affordable prices. In all my years of covering our “scene”, I have never attended a JPac ( Jedlicka Performing Arts Center production. I am not sure if i was ever invited to, but I am now on their list, and I am excited to be on the list as they are a solid performance group that brings a lot of talent to the stage and at a very affordable ticket price, which allows families to enjoy the theatrical experience together.
When I read the release/invitation to their current production, “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, my first thought were- “How can they do a production of this magnitude? Well, today, as I entered the almost sold out house of the Jedlicka Performance Art Center located on the Campus of Morton College in Cicero ( yes, Cicero,Illinois), I could feel the energy of the audience, many of whom are subscribers ( who knew?). This is a comfy venue, a sort of lecture hall/theater not far from the city with loads of free parking and while the stage itself is much smaller than any of the other stages I have seen this show produced on, director Dante J. Orfei and his design team truly pulled it off!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this show, it is a musical version of the film that Monty Python’s company, led by the weird Eric Idle created , titles “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, a spoof on the life and legend of King Arthur and The Knights of The round Table” also “Camelot”, the musical that brought fame to Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet. Let me tell you, this is 2 hours and 20 minutes of sheer magic onstage. Orfei has assemble a cast of unknowns ( well, not to them, but , to us) that are as talented as most of the regional theaters in Chicago put on their stages. In fact, it might be a wise move for the people of The Marriott,Drury lane, Theatre at The Center and others to buy a ticket ( they are only $18) and go take a look at some of the outstanding voices and ability this production offers.
This show is pure farce and sight gags and anyone who ever say Monty Python on TV or in the movies can only find happiness and laughter from the start to the finish with this marvelous show. It is, to put it in simple terms- A HOOT!!!!. Idle of course is responsible for the book and the lyrics with music by John Du Prez and Idle. Most of the songs are a part of the show and are designed to keep the flow of the show and story moving, but one song that almost everyone knows is “Always Look on The bright Side of Life” ( the audience really gets into this one, not once, but twice) .This is probably the only memorable song, but the entire “song book” is one after another of funny songs with one or two “love songs” and one spectacular song series about Broadway, featuring the adorable dance number “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway”. Wow!
King Arthur is portrayed by Patrick Perry who has a solid voice and great comic timing. His side-kick, Patsy (Steve Malone is outstanding) also plays his “horse” . Hard to explain, but he does the clopping for a horse that does not exist, a funny bit and Malone handles it well. The members of the Round Table that Arthur gather together are a talented bunch of men as well:
Brett Bateskie- Sir Lancelot
Tommy Lucas- Sir Belvedere
Daniel Ermel- Sir Robin ( a great comic, himself)
Jameson Wentworth- Sir Galahad- dynamite performance
The Lady of The Lake is the inspiration for Arthur to gather up this group of Knights and save his country. Jamie Szynal, or should I say, the lovely and talented Jamie Szynal is about as perfect as anyone I have ever seen in this role ( and this includes, Broadway, Broadway tour, the recent production at Drury Lane Oakbrook) Her vocal range is unvelievable as she does the comic “The Song That Goes Like This” and her rendition of “The Diva’s lament” ( about waiting backstage for her big number, that they forgot to do) and her “Come With Me” truly shows just how powerful her voice is. Hey casting directors- take a look at this talent!
A production like this requires a great many ingredients, one of which is a strong ensemble- people who can sing, dance, change a lot of costumes and keep the flow moving. This is sheer comedy where one slip of the timing can be a disaster. NO PROBLEM, HERE! This ensemble is super:
Anslee Burns, Kyle Cassady, Jacob Craig,Casi Maggio, Eliza Morris, Kelsey Overberg, Lindsay Prerost,Russell Ramstrom, Charlie Rasmann, Caleb Scales,Andrew Sickel , Jordan Taylor and Lucy Zukaitis. They fill the stage with many characters, great dance numbers and solid voices. I coul dsee that they were having as much fun as we, the audience, an dthe energy they exuded on a Sunday afternoon was felt throughout the theater, even after the final curtain call ( when the audience joined in for a reprise of “Always Look At The Bright Side of Life”- I must tell you, the audience members, of all ages and races, were dancing , humming and whistling as they made their way to the parking lot- what more can I say?
The Technical aspects of a production like this are quite important and those who do not appear on the stage, are in fact as important to the total picture as the divine performers. This is truly a “team effort”.John Warren is the musical director and his orchestra ( live) outstanding. Christopher Pazdernik’s choreography, is a bit changed from the original, and in many ways, the conciseness on the smaller stage was even better than the original. The set my Michael Nedza, again on a smallish stage, worked well with the fun pieces and the animated GOD coming much closer to the audience. Lindsay Prerost produced some amazing costumes, considering, I am sure, a far lessor budget than the regional theaters and they were outstanding. The tech was near perfection with only a few lighting problems and the actors were “miked” so sound was never an issue
This is an outrageous musical comedy that is guaranteed to take your mind away from anything stressful in your day to day life. In fact, any doctor worth his salt, might suggest to any depressed patients, take two acts of “Spamalot”, laugh your “arse” off and you will never have to see me again. Now, you know I don;t mean that, but what I am trying to say is that this is brilliant, hysterical humor that will take you into another place, one where you can just laugh and have fun- for two hours and forty minutes, you will “forget your troubles and just be happy”. “Spamalot” will continue through May 4th, so you do not have a lot of time to catch this near perfect rendition of this hysterical farce. The performance schedule is as follows:
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets ( hold on to your seats) are $18.00 ( yes, that is right) and for seniors, only $16
Talk about bargain theater!
To order yours , and I would not hesitate to do so, call the box office at 708-656-1800 or visit www.jpactheatre.com
The theater is located at Morton College- 3801 S. Central Avenue with loads of FREE parking . Getting to the theater is a little tricky as Central does not go through the entire sity. If you are coming from the north, I suggest taking Austin or Cicero and going to Central ( which is 5600 west) at either Pershing Road or 35th Street. Once you find this company, I am sure, just like me, you will want to return.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.co, go to review round-up and click on “Spamalot”