Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Arizona Broadway Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent reviews of Lizzie and Spookley the Square Pumpkin: The Musical

Tyler Pirrung, Jamie Michael Parnell, Steve McCoy,
Brad Rupp, and Elliott Scott Smith

Photo by Timeless Present Photography
With an exceptional cast that makes every joke land, fun and colorful creative elements, and crisp direction, Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of the 2005 Tony-winning Best Musical Spamalot is one of the funniest and best shows I've seen at the Peoria dinner theatre.

Based on the hit 1975 movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail, which was written by the wacky Monty Python comedy team of Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman, the musical humorously tells of King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail. Idle wrote the book and lyrics for the musical version, with John Du Prez co-writing some of the music, and the title is a riff on the musical Camelot, which was set in the same period and also focused on King Arthur.

The plot of the show is fairly simple, mainly a series of comic vignettes. King Arthur journeys across the land to find men of valor to join him as Knights of the Round Table. With Lancelot, Galahad, Robin, and his trusty knave Patsy along for the ride, plus some assistance from the mysterious Lady of the Lake, they go on a search for the Holy Grail.

The musical claims it is "lovingly ripped off from the movie" and almost all of the well-known scenes, characters, and comical lines from the film remain fairly intact, but the show also includes new material and several hilarious musical numbers. However, as funny as it is, there are also a couple of songs that are just okay and a few bits that aren't as funny as the beloved comical scenes and moments from the film. Besides being based on the movie, Spamalot is also a lovable homage to many classic stage musicals, including The Phantom of the Opera and Fiddler on the Roof, so fans of the film and classic musicals will find much to laugh at.

The ABT cast is excellent and includes several actors who have been in numerous of the company's previous shows. Steve McCoy played King Arthur in two national tours of the musical, under the direction of the Broadway production's director Mike Nichols. McCoy holds the record for playing the role more than any other actor, so he's got plenty of experience with the part and it shows. While Arthur is the straight man of the piece, and McCoy plays the role with utter conviction, his deadpan facial expressions and stoic looks ensure every funny bit he's a part of lands perfectly. His singing voice is clear and strong.

Kelly J. Mazzella's bright and brassy voice does a fine job on the Lady of the Lake's numerous solos and, even though she's the only main female character in the piece, Mazzella has no problem holding her own with the large male cast.

The actors who play Arthur's knights are all superb. They are gifted comedians, with perfect comic timing and exceptional accents, and they all appear to be having a blast playing these parts. While they all also play other parts in the show, Jamie Michael Parnell appears to do the heaviest lifting, playing, with the use of various accents and numerous costume changes, such memorable film characters as Sir Lancelot, the French Taunter, the Knight of Ni, and Tim the Enchanter. Parnell is wonderful in every one of these parts. Tyler Pirrung and Brad Rupp are equally as good as Sir Robin and Sir Galahad, respectively. There is a running bit about how Robin isn't that brave and that he continually soils himself when he encounters the slightest bit of danger, and Pirrung makes those moments get big laughs. He also has one of the funniest songs in the show, "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," and delivers it beautifully. Rupp is very funny as the somewhat vain Galahad, and the duet with Mazzella, "The Song That Goes Like This," features his clear and strong voice and is wonderful.

In supporting roles, Loren Stone oozes warmth and devotion as Arthur's faithful servant Patsy. Stone expertly clacks two coconut shells together to simulate the sound of horse's hoofs (and gets continual laughs doing so) and his sweet singing voice shines in a performance chock-full of charm. Stephen Hohendorf is hilarious as Dead Fred and the fun and fey Herbert, and Elliott Scott Smith is very funny as Sir Bedevere and Galahad's mother. John Cardenas adds a few moments of seriousness as the Historian who pops up every now and then to narrate the action, and the ensemble (Alyssa Armstrong, Gino Giovanni Bloomberg, Andy Edelman, Ian Nicholas Kaider, Joshua McWhortor, Evan Sheets, Delaney Spanko, Ashley Woodson, and Savanna Worthington) all shine playing numerous parts.

Danny Gorman's direction does a very good job of bringing a sense of cohesion to the many vignettes in the show, which under a less talented hand could appear disjointed, while also making sure every comic line, wacky character, and funny prop gets big laughs. The choreography by Christopher G. Patterson makes every one of the large-scale musical numbers build into a showstopper. Christian Fleming's set is somewhat static, with large stone castle walls on the back and sides of the stage, but there are a few added pieces that help, somewhat, to depict the various locations in the show. The costumes are credited to original Broadway costume designer Tim Hatley (with additional costume designs by Dr. Heather Striebel) and are on loan from Maine State Music Theatre. Hatley's Tony-nominated designs (and Striebel's additions) are both period perfect and funny. Casey Price's lighting is bright and warm for the many daytime scenes, but also infused with pops of color for the large musical numbers. The cast sound wonderful under Kurtis Overby's music direction and Jesse Worley's sound design.

Monty Python and The Holy Grail is a very funny movie and Spamalot is one of the funniest Broadway musicals of the last twenty years. With a cast and direction perfectly letting the satire of the show run rampant, ABT's production of Spamalot is an evening of silly moments, lowbrow humor, hijinks, zany humor, and a whole lot of fun.

With this production, which starts their 2022 season, ABT has expanded their included entree options to almost double the number offered last season. It's nice to see so many selections on the menu and a return to the number of menu options pre-COVID.

Spamalot runs through November 6, 2022, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 623-776-8400.

Direction: Danny Gorman
Choreography: Christopher G. Patterson
Music Direction: Kurtis Overby
Scenic Design: Christian Fleming
Lighting Design: Casey Price
Sound Design: Jesse Worley
Costume Design: Tim Hatley
Additional Costume Design: Dr. Heather Striebel
Props Coordination: Hannah Beaudry
Production Stage Manager: Leigh Treat
Production Coordinator: Jamie Hohendorf-Parnell
Associate Artistic Director: Kurtis Overby
Executive Producer: Kiel Klaphake
Casting & Artistic Producer: Cassandra Klaphake

King Arthur: Steve McCoy
Lady of the Lake: Kelly J. Mazzella
Sir Lancelot: Jamie Michael Parnell
Sir Robin: Tyler Pirrung
Sir Bedevere: Elliott Scott Smith
Sir Galahad: Brad Rupp
Dead Fred/Herbert: Stephen Hohendorf
Patsy: Loren Stone
Historian/Maynard/Etc.: John Cardenas
Ensemble: Alyssa Armstrong, Gino Giovanni Bloomberg, Andy Edelman, Ian Nicholas Kaider, Joshua McWhortor, Evan Sheets, Delaney Spanko, Ashley Woodson, and Savanna Worthington