Spamalot Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle
Music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Musical direction by Steve MacKinnon
Choreography by Billy Sprague, Jr
Starring Davis Gaines, Dee Roscioli, T. Robby Pigott and Brad DePlanche
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando, FL
If you want to cast a show where everyone is off book at audition, this is it. Monty Python pushed postwar British absurdism to some sort of lumpy pinnacle of respectability; in the 1970’s they gave you a fair chance at seeing a topless woman on PBS. The “Holy Grail” movie pushed even harder; with its thick accents and non-sequitur lines it took me several forced viewings before it felt even slightly funny. But now the show is part of theatrical Canon Law and here the more obscure edges are polished off but still exploit the inherent absurdism of musical theatre itself. The plot is a thumbnail; something about King Arthur (Gaines) and his horse Patsy (De Blanche) recruiting an army of knights and then looking for the Holy Grail. God (Eric Idle) personally asks Arthur to have a look for his best cup, but if even HE can’t find it then this is just an excuse to parody musicals, history, religion, and maybe the board of Directors of the Orlando Shakespeare Festival.
If there’s a straight man here its Gaines; while he gets a share of laughs he’s the one who must pretend everything from the misty Lady of the Lake (Roscioli) spookily arising from the trap to the Black Knight (Michael Hunsaker) losing all his limbs on stage is just normal medieval weather. The gags are non-stop: coconut horse hooves, farting Frenchmen and stuck set pieces make no difference. Around Gaines’ pompatus orbits the power team of T. Robby Pigott, Phillip Nolan, DePlanche, Hunsaker and Johnathan Wiener. Any of these guys could carry a lesser Shakespearian comedy by themselves; here they exert an enchanted multiplier effect on each other. Upstage was an ensemble sextet giving us live music under the skilled direction of Steve McKinnon, and the set was filled with sight gags, motion and ridiculous props. I don’t know where they stashed all this cultch between scenes; perhaps they stored some of it in next month. Lights, dancers, swordfights and confetti; this is the biggest laugh fest in town and even with a few glitches it may be Director Helsinger’s best work ever. He delivers more gags here than the presidential election. It’s time to look on the bright side of life, even if only for the run of this spectacle.
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