Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Former Monty Python member Eric Idle reimagined the Python film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as a stage musical, creating a hybrid that is somehow far funnier than the film, with its crazy, irreverent, and irrepressible humor spawned from those wonderfully wacky Monty Python minds. Imagine King Arthur in 932 A.D. searching for the Holy Grail but finding a gaggle of miscreant Knights and unimpressed peasants and frightening Frenchmen and fantastic forest creatures and rapacious rabbitswell, you get the idea. All an excuse for one hysterical musical number after another, a way to satirize everything in its path, leaving no joke unturned.
Director Jeffrey Bracco found a superb collection of comedians for his cast, all filled with the zany energy and spirit required. In the wrong hands, it could be embarrassing; this kind of show demands a fearless willingness to go completely over the top, and when you think you've gone far enough, go furtherand your audience will laugh even harder. The cast is beyond fearless, and will put you in proverbial sidesplitting stitches of laughter.
As King Arthur, always assured comic talent Ken Boswell woefully searches for loyal and steadfast men to be his knights, followed by his "horse" Patsya remarkable Josiah Frampton, whose expressions and demeanor are utterly delightful. An amazing Clara Rose Walker aces the role of Lady of the Lake, delivering nuances of crooning clichés even while impressing with her fantastic voice. Other standouts include Nick Manfredi as Sir Robin (among others), Mackenszie Drae as Sir Lancelot (with amusing French and Scottish accents), James Snell as Sir Galahad, and Jeremy Ryan as Sir Bedevere (and a hysterical Dennis' Mom). Ryan Mardesich is billed as "Mr. Everything," but especially excels as Prince Herbert.
The entire ensemble deserves mention for non-stop energy and enthusiasm and constant comic touches. The musical numbers, choreographed by Jennifer Gorgulho, show off the accomplished ensemble and dispense hilarity at the same time. "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" has got to be the funniest number I've seen in decades. Wait, maybe it was "His Name Is Lancelot." Or no, "He Is Not Dead Yet." Or the popular hit, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." You can decide for yourself.
City Lights' production benefits from the creative scenic design talents of Ron Gasparinetti, the Herculean properties design work of Caroline Clark, Erin Haney's hundreds of costumes, and Nick Kumamoto's brilliant lighting. George Psarras has mastered the sound well to balance un-miked voices with a recorded score, and Michael Johnson provides excellent music direction.
Don't let this one pass you byyou'll remember brilliant moments and keep laughing long after the show is over.
Spamalot, book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, presented by City Lights Theater Company, 529 2nd Street, San Jose, through August 31, 2014. Tickets $17 - $35, available at 408-295-4200 or www.cltc.org.
- Jeanie K. Smith