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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Monty Python's Spamalot

In its second visit to Washington, Monty Python's Spamalot is as blissfully demented as ever. From killer rabbits to catapulted cattle, from outrageously silly disguises to intentionally cheesy scenic effects even erotic displays of food the Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 2005 gives the audience at the National Theatre everything it expects and more.

Fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the 1974 movie from which the musical was "lovingly ripped off" by original Python Eric Idle (book, lyrics, music) and John Du Prez (music), will find many of the movie's scenes approximated onstage, but there's a lot for non-Python fans to appreciate as well. The authors have fun with the conventions of the Broadway musical, tossing in gags at the expense of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim and shows from Fiddler on the Roof to Les Miserables.

The story is fairly simple: the legendary King Arthur (Michael Siberry) seeks the Holy Grail with the help of knights, including hair-tossing Sir Galahad (Ben Davis), "homicidally brave" Sir Lancelot (Patrick Heusinger) and Sir Robin (Robert Petkoff), who may not have what it takes to be a successful knight. Overseeing the quest is the Lady of the Lake (Esther Stilwell), serving as guide, protector and one magnificent diva.

The cast members all understand that the key to their performances is to take things as seriously as possible. Siberry anchors the show with resolve and resignation, as the straight man surrounded by zanies, and Stilwell succeeds in displaying both abundant sex appeal (helped by Tim Hatley's stunning costume designs) and sharp comic timing.

Other standouts include Jeff Dumas as King Arthur's put-upon servant (he won the Helen Hayes Award for this role in the tour's previous visit) and Christopher Sutton in several roles, including the song-loving Prince Herbert. In keeping with Monty Python tradition, several of the performers are unrecognizable as they switch among their characters: Davis is Prince Herbert's rugged father and the delusional Black Knight as well as golden-haired Galahad, and Heusinger gets to throw insults in an ostentatiously fake French accent, stand 12 feet tall as the Knight of Ni and disco dance in tights and a silver sequined codpiece.

Mike Nichols' solid direction and Casey Nicholaw's frenetic, eclectic choreography keep the energy high throughout. While Spamalot may have momentary slow periods, something new is always just ahead, or to the side, or falling from the ceiling.

The National Theatre
Monty Python's Spamalot
December 11th January 6th
Book and lyrics by Eric Idle
Music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle
Historian, Not Dead Fred, French Guard, Minstrel, Prince Herbert: Christopher Sutton
Mayor, Patsy, Guard 2: Jeff Dumas
King Arthur: Michael Siberry
Sir Robin, Guard 1, Brother Maynard: Robert Petkoff (12/11-16), James Beaman (12/18-1/6)
Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, Knight of Ni, Tim the Enchanter: Patrick Heusinger
Sir Dennis Galahad, The Black Knight, Prince Herbert's Father: Ben Davis
Dennis' Mother, Sir Bedevere, Concorde: Christopher Gurr
The Lady of the Lake: Esther Stilwell
Sir Not Appearing: Erik Hayden
Monk: Brian O'Brien
Nun: Matt Allen
Voice of God: John Cleese
French Guards: Jonathan Brody, Brian O'Brien, Christopher Sutton
Minstrels: Christopher Sutton, Amy F. Karlein, Brian O'Brien, Darryl Semira
Sir Bors: Darryl Semira
Ensemble: Matt Allen, Julie Barnes, Jonathan Brody, Timothy Connell, Erik Hayden, Amy F. Karlein, Sabra Lewis, Jennifer Mathie, Angelina Mullins, Brian O'Brien, Darryl Semira, Paula Wise
Directed by Mike Nichols
Choreography by Casey Nicholaw
The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 1-800-447-7400 or www.telecharge.com


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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