NOTE: This has been a rare week-end indeed. On Friday evening, while I was in Lake Forest watching the Citadadel production of “Ordinary People “, Mike Horn was in Arlington Heights, viewing the Metropolis Theatre’s “Monty Python’s Spamalot”. It is not often that two local venues will open the same play, but this was the week that was, so below, you will find my review of the version that I just saw at Theatre At The Center, in nearby Munster, Indiana.
Highly Recommended ***** Those who were fans of Monty Python, and worshipped their humor will recall with great affection the film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” back in 1975. It was a farce that spoofed “Camelot” and the re-telling of the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as only Eric Idle’s weird mind could. Idle also created the musical version with music by John Du Prez and Idle to work with his book and lyrics. Director David Perkovich, who adores doing comedy and evidently loves “Monty Python”, shows his true love of the project by the high energy that his cast of able bodies players bring to the piece. He has also brought on board , Award winning Linda Fortunato to handle the choreography, which is exciting and cleverer than other versions I have seen. One of the beautiful parts of this show, is that the more you see it, the more you love it. Yes, it grows on you.
Chicago favorite Larry Adams, known for his ability to take on all types of roles, shows just how much “meat” there is in playing King Arthur in this smart comedy. One can see his eyes shine with delight as he and his hoofbeats (Patsy and others played by Greg Foster to the nth degree) traipse the country seeking the men that he needs to sit at his round table. These men are indeed characters and Perkovich has selected some of our finest to become these men (and many others): Sir Robin is handled with great flair by Larry Wyatt, Sir Lancelot, by the hysterical Sean Fortunato, Sir Galahad by Jarrod Zimmerman, who one can tell is also having the time of his life, and Sir Belvedere by Jake Mahler. Each of these actors take on many other roles during this fast paced energetic romp through history. I am not sure how they make the costume and make-up changes so fast, but I am sure there is a strong crew backstage making it happen, so lets give kudos to Greta Humphrey and Chloe Greenwall who work with designer Brenda Winstead on this part of the show. I realize that there are special costumes that are rented for this particular production, but getting 17 actors to play some 48 roles is not an easy task.
The Lady of the Lake, who is the woman who brings King Arthur to his kingdom and sets him off on his mission is played by the very talented, and lovely Colette Todd, who has amazing vocal range and a very strong stage presence. She is a very handsome woman. Speaking of handsome women, I must say that Jake Mahler brings his own interpretation to his role of Dennis’s Mother in one of the early scenes- he is terrific. The female ensemble members, Katheryn Patton, Ann Delaney, Kayla Kennedy and Amanda Lauren Compton are solid in their singing, dancing and just being beautiful. They are a major part of making this show work. The male ensemble members of this brilliant and energetic cast are: David Schlumpf, Steve Peebles, Henry McGinnis and Nathan Mittleman. Yes, these four men also take on a myriad of roles with style and class.
Our opening is handled by the Historian ( the wild and very talented Patrick Tierney, who also takes on many other roles including his young Prince Herbert, who is being held captive by his father in his tower awaiting a wedding that he is against). I will not divulge the outcome of this episode except to let you know that this young talent steals the scene with his bravery to “come out” of the tower. Yes, the story and its asides are “goofy” and silly, but we know going in that this is Eric Idle and Monty Python, so what should we expect?
From the opening number of “Fisch Schlapping Song”, to “He Is Not Dead Yet”; from “Come With Me”, “The Song That Goes Like This”, “Find Your Grail”, “Run Away”, the well known tune “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”, “You Won’t Suceed on Broadway”, the very funny “Diva’s Lament”, to reprises of many of the aforementioned adding “We Are Not Yet Wed” and the Finale of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” with the audience joining in, this is a fun filled 2 1/2 hours of non-stop fun that you will wish doesn’t end. You may even want to go back for seconds!
Speaking of music, William Underwood and his six musicians( Nick Anderson, Diane Hanson, Jean Hoffman, Deb Johnson, Linda Madonia or Randy Glancy) sound like a much larger orchestra and yet they never drown out the vocalists. Watching this cast work the script is as much fun as the show itself. One can see that they are having fun doing the show. The transference of energy to the audience becomes even stronger and we all have a theatrical experience that we will recall fondly. I suggest that you make arrangements to see this show, at either location is fine as Mike tells me the Arlington Heights production is quite strong. Munster is not far from the Chicago area and watching some of Chicago’s favorites actors take a bite out of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” is truly special!
The sets (Angie Miller), lights (Denise Karczewski), sound (Barry G. Funderburg), wig and hair design (Kevin Barthel) and props (Brittney O’Keefe) all add to the slickness of the production, but to make something like this work, it is up to the tech director (Ann N. Davis) and Stage Manger Matthew McMullen along with his crew (Hnnah Wichmann, Dellie Page, Sue Connors, Wally Pohrte and Luis Ramon Garcia) to make it perfect. Nice work!
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
There are also some select Saturday matinees and Sunday evenings- check www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com for information and to purchase tickets. You can also call the box office at 219-836-3255 or 1-800-511-1552. You can also go to www.Tickets.com. Tickets are priced from $40- $44, a bargain for theater of this quality.
The theater is located just over the border ( 35 minutes from the loop and I made it from the North Shore in 59 minutes. Lots of free parking and places to dine in the area). Exact address is 1040 Ridge Road. If you take 94 and exit at Calumet (Route 41) South, you are only a few blocks to Ridge and you turn left, stop at the Dairy Queen ( We always do) go East a few blocks to the entrance. By the way, gas is far less costly in Munster.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at Monty Python’s Spamalot”.