Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights continues its 15th anniversary Season with the Tony Award winning musical Monty Python’s SPAMALOT and you are in for a treat! This tastefully irreverent stage adaptation of the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” by Eric Idle and John Du Prez is set in the time of King Arthur and the comedy unfurls as a romp in the English countryside. The hapless King Arthur seeks Knights and the titular chalice accompanied by his knave, Patsy. The aptly named companion provides the galloping, trotting, and cantering cadences of horse hoofs by banging two coconut halves together as they traverse the countryside. The quests will find Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, the none too brave Sir Robin, and their King facing all manner of danger: taunting French sentries, a vicious rabbit, imposing woodland Knights “who say Ni”, and the menacing Black Knight. SPAMALOT mocks the legend and characters of King Arthur and his court with Monty Python humor, songs, and also lampoons show business tropes.
Directed with verve and a steady hand by Robin Hughes, this production is filled with sight gags, slapstick antics, buffoonery and it never loses energy. She is working with a superb cast of actors and uses them effectively, squeezing every laugh possible during the play’s two plus hours. She succeeds in honoring the original production and bringing it to the stage for a new generation to enjoy.
Mackenzie Curran as Lady of the Lake is delightful as the muse who delivers Excalibur and “kings” Arthur. Her vocals are powerful and true, but she also has a satirical side that surfaces just when it is needed. Her rendition of “Whatever Happened to My Part” was wonderful and received a thunderous response from the audience.
Joe Bianco (King Arthur) and Ryan J. Duncan (Patsy, Arthur’s coconut clapping sidekick) perform a terrific duet “I’m All Alone”. What makes this number especially funny is Ryan’s subtle asides and facial expressions, which are understated and hilarious. Joe is the straight man here and can’t gain any respect from the villagers, but his vocals ring loud and clear.
I’m Not Dead Yet” featuring Not Dead Fred (Jack McFarlane), Sir Lancelot (Kevin Lauerman), Sir Robin (Timothy Sullivan), and company is not only a slapstick number about hauling bodies away on a cart, it could also be a statement about not giving up too easily. The theme of not being dead yet is repeated throughout the story, such as when the Black Knight declares it only a flesh wound when his limbs are cut off (cleverly portrayed). Prince Herbert (Jack McFarlane) also insists that he is not dead yet after he falls from the castle window when his father (Jameson Wentworth) cuts his escape rope made of sheets. Optimism is rampant.
Another stirring number is the gospel-like “Find your Grail” performed by Lady of the Lake, Arthur, and the Knights. It works as a jest and sincere anthem (“Life is really up to you. You must choose to pursue oh yeah”).
And we mustn’t overlook the most famous number “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” taken from the 1979 Monty Python movie “The Life of Brian”, and sung wonderfully by Patsy (Ryan J. Duncan) and Arthur (Joe Bianco) and reprised at the end of the show with audience participation, everyone is whistling, singing, and tapping by its end.
This is a relatively young cast of actors and they are solid. They throw themselves headlong into the material and the energy level never wanes. They are not only entertaining , but it is clear that they are having a great time! Accompanied by a fine group of musicians, the musical numbers transcend silliness and become something more. The dancing is fun to watch with choreography by Christie Kerr. Creative costumes by kClare Mckellaston complement each scene and add to the humor. The set by Matthew Weber is perfect, not overwhelming or too sparse, and effectively supports the production; it’s hard to believe that he created it from recycled materials. The lighting by Mike Wagner illuminates each scene with precision and control.
This production of SPAMALOT at the Metropolis Centre in Arlington Heights is outrageous, fun, and very enjoyable. You will chuckle, you will laugh, and you will have a great time. These young actors give you everything they have every minute they are on stage and the energy level is always high. I guess I can sum it up with a comment I overheard from a patron as we left the theater:
“WOW, this was really, really good and exceeded my expectations; I am so glad I came”!
SPAMALOT runs through October 25, 2015
METROPOLIS Performing Arts Centre
111 West Campbell
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
Schedule: Wednesday 1:00PM
Saturday 3:00PM & 7:00PM
Parking: Plenty of free parking on the street or in the public garage behind the theater
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to “Spamalot”- there will be two versions as Theatre at The Center in Munster is also doing this musical.