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Manatee Players

Also see Bill's review of A Romp with Gilbert and Sullivan

The Cast
To close out their 2014-15 season, the Manatee Players are having a go at Spamalot. With book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, lovingly ripped off from Monty Python, this bit of fluff continues to be quite popular in this region. There was a professional production at Florida Studio Theater a year and a half ago and there is another scheduled for American Stage in the Park, April-May of 2016.

There is no way that anyone could hope to duplicate the extraordinary Broadway cast—Tim Curry, Hank Azaria, David Hyde Pierce and star in the making Christian Borle—but all of these productions are showing that the musical is so broad in humor and zaniness that it is practically indestructible. FST's production in a 300-seat theater had a fully professional cast, but seemed a bit small in size. Manatee Players with an amateur cast gets the size of the show right, with bigger sets and more room to move around; therefore, the humor is broader. Some of the star turns of the second act, such as "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" and "His Name is Lancelot," don't land as strongly as they did with the professional cast, but scenes like the French Taunter and the Knight of Ni are much funnier in the larger house. Director Kathy Pingel knows how to get the best out of community theater actors—never go subtle when you can go B R O A D. Choreographer Vanessa Russo contributes fine dancing to the mix. Stage-filling sets are by Marc Lalosh, who also designed projections that are very reminiscent of the Broadway production, costumes by Becky Evans, and lighting design by Mike Wood. All are of a piece with Ms. Pingel's vision.

Michael Bajjaly leads the cast as Arthur, a role he has essayed before, albeit in a different musical (Camelot). He is more befuddled than leader but his gang of knights seem willing to follow him all over the stage and occasionally into the audience. Mike Nolan is Patsy, Sancho to King Arthur's Don Quixote. He is the saddest sack I have seen in a long time. Dave Downer, Tristan Martin, William E. Masuck, and Jason Moore are respectively the knights Sir Robin, Sir Lancelot, Sir (Dennis) Galahad, and Sir Bedevere. Brian Craft is terrific is several roles which include The Historian, Not Dead Fred, French Guard, Minstrel, and especially Prince Herbert, who helps Lancelot out of his closet. Michelle Anaya is a buxom Lady of the Lake leading her excellent Laker Girls ensemble. I attended the performance with the mother of one of the male ensemble and her son told me that there is unending levity backstage, including but certainly not limited to knock-knock jokes. The energy from all that goofyness is all over the stage.

Musical direction is by Rick Bogner who leads a lively five-piece band.

Manatee Players' Spamalot is a good time waiting to be had.

Manatee Players presents Spamalot at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through May 17, 2015, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton; 941-748-0111,

Cast (In Order of Appearance):
Historian, Not Dead Fred, French Guard, Minstrel, Prince Herbert: Brian Craft
Mayor, Patsy: Mike Nolan
King Arthur: Michael Bajjaly
Sir Robin, Brother Maynard: Dave Downer
Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, Knight of Ni, Tim the Enchanter: William E. Masuck
Sir Dennis Galahad, The Black Knight, Herbert's Father: Tristan Martin
Dennis's Mother, Sir Bedevere, Concorde: Jason Moore
The Lady of the Lake: Michelle Anaya
Sir Not Appearing: Jack Harkleroad
God: William Booth
French Guards: William e. Masuck, Brian Craft, Jack Harkleroad
Minstrels: Brian Craft, Zoe Zimmerman, Kristie Affolter, Sara Sutton
Sir Bors: Jack Harkleroad
Ensemble: Eliza Engle, Miranda Wolf, Zoe Zimmerman, Kristie Affolter, Sara Sutton, Hannah Morgan, Jack Harkleroad, Chris Wolf, Craig Engle, Matt Mayo

Conductor/Keyboard: Rick Bogner
2nd Keyboard: Thom Gutherie
Reeds: Ellen Wittman
Percussion: John Januszewski
Trumpet: Victor Mongillo

Directed by Kathy Pingel
Music Direction by Rick Bogner
Choreographed by Vanessa Russo
Lighting Designed by Mike Wood
Costumes Designed by Becky Evans
Scenery & Projections Designed by marc LaLosh
Sound Designed by Tom Sell
Stage Manager: Kristin Ribble

Photo: Michele Slaughter/Manatee Players

--William S. Oser

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