Regional Reviews: San Jose/Silicon Valley
Also see Eddie's review of Nine
After all, Eric Idle is the book and lyric writer of Monty Python's Spamalot. He created the multi-Tony-winning musical with John Du Prez, calling on his many years as writer and actor in the famed and warped Python TV series. When all the crazed shenanigans are handed over to the Woodside Community Theatre for their annual musical production, the result is a wild and woolly evening of laugh-out-loud comedy smacking of slapstick, vaudeville, TV sitcom, and just downright silliness on a stage of full-voiced, high-stepping actors who clearly are all having the time of their lives.
Arthur heads out on his quest for knights riding an invisible horse with his loyal pal Patsy, who controls the speed of the king's steed by clicking two coconut shells worn around his chest like a brassier. Arthur finds his band of followers in the most unusual of ways and places (but of course). Before donning their armor, Sirs Robin and Lancelot are collectors of the dead, attempting to dispose plague victims like Not Dead Fred (Sheraj Ragoobeer), who rises from the dead (before being beaned on the head for good) to ring forth "I'm not dead yet" in a voice still very alive while also doing cartwheels, splits, and high-air jumps. A political rabble-rouser, Denniswho in his disheveled dreadlocks tells Arthur any king not elected by the people is illegitimateis suddenly transformed into blonde, pretty-boy Lancelot when he encounters Arthur's fairy godmother-of-sorts, the Lady of the Lake. Knights who do not make it into the merry band include Sir Not Appearing in This Show (Greg Doolittle, looking a lot like Don Quixote) and an argumentative Black Knight (Dan Dominguez).
Sir Galahad's transformation from peasant pissant to golden-haired wonder is only one of director Bill Starr's and choreographer Carrie J. Perna's many collaborations. They fill the stage with a host of everything from Laker Girls to high school cheerleaders as Galahad (Brandon Savage) and the Lady of the Lake (Annmarie Martin) sing in Andrew Lloyd Webber style the say-nothing, sound-wonderful "The Song That Goes Like This." As the always-glamorous Lady of the Lake, Ms. Martin polishes off number after number with a diva-worthy voice strong, sensuous and sonorous, including a hilarious act two appearance in front of the curtain as she trumpets the night's biggest sounding solo, "The Diva's Lament."
As Sir Robin, James M. Jones is wonderfully animated and sings with full gusto as he warns Arthur, who has been told he must put on a Broadway show, "Listen, Arthur darling, closely to the news: We won't succeed on Broadway if you don't have any Jews." That line is all that is needed to send forth most of the thirty-person cast into a whirlwind production number full of Chassids dancing with wine grails (not wine bottles) on their black hats, women and men joyfully dancing horas, flashing Stars of David.
Lancelot (Joe Murphy) has his special, big-number moment in yet another of the hilarity-packed sequences of the evening. Lovesick, gotta-sing-now Prince Herbert (a sweet-voiced, red-curled Michael Sacco) pines in song, "Where Are You?" while locked in a tower by his royal father who hates his (and any) singing (a growly, snarly, and funny Gordon Bell). But when suddenly Sir Lancelot appears on the balcony, eyes lock, and Herbert's song turns to "Here Are You," leading Lancelot into a club setting of dancing disco boys and girls as he celebrates his newfound beau and his coming out.
While knights get lost and have their own adventures along the way, King Arthur is never left alone in his quest for the Holy Grail. His always-present, dutifully loyal sidekick Patsy does all he can to keep up the spirits of his Sire. Joey Montes brings one of the night's star voices to sing to Arthur a whistling, smile-inducing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," aided by a bevy of umbrella-twirling, soft-shoe tappers. His not-so-subtle but humorously expressive non-verbals come into full play as he listens to Arthur (Russ Bohard) sing in a deep, rich baritone "I'm All Alone," while Patsy stands nearby communicating in a hundred, silent ways, "What am I ... chopped liver?"
As good as the cast, choreography and direction are in this Spamalot, special hurrahs and ovations must go to the entire creative team. First and foremost, set designer Akio Patrick and scenic artists Don Coluzzi and Tina Patrick have created grand, eye-popping elements including a massive castle with its turrets, double-level windows and doors, and gigantic gate that lowers to fill the arena. Also from above comes the feet and hands of the Almighty while from the sides come the Alps, creepy forests, and all sorts of mischief and fun. And have I mentioned the flashy, bright-colored replica of Las Vegas' Excalibur Hotel?
Rosie Issel's properties include a big-toothed rabbit looking for blood and a cow sent flying like a cannon ball. The costumes of Karen Patrick reap their own barrel of laughs and include what seems like dozens upon dozens of ensemble changes, from furry, forest knights who only say "Ni" to dancing can-can girls to a castle-packed wedding party in all sorts of festive wear as the full company romps. Don Coluzzi's lighting design sparkles in every respect, and how can Rob Harper's cacophony of farts not be the highlight of his overall sound design? Special kudos go to Kimily Conkle whose dialect coaching pays off with a cast speaking delicious accents of Cockney, Scottish, French, and many more. Finally, with both tongue in cheek and musical mastery, Brett Strader directs the overall music and the excellent, sixteen-person orchestra.
One of the joys of any Spamalot production for all of us musical lovers are the obvious (sometimes painfully so) parodies that Idle and Du Prez continually inserted of other musicals, such as Les Misérables, Fiddler on the Roof, A Chorus Line, West Side Story, and anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber. In addition, the show's over-the-top stunts, eye-popping slapstick, and downright silliness form a perfect escape from the current daily news headlines of other clownish acts in our own national scene that are not at all funny.
When a full cast of characters parade forth in high/low-comedic, caricature fashion, bringing their foibles, follies, and (yes, sorry) farts with them (as well as their delightful singing voices), then a production like that of Monty Python's Spamalot now running at Woodside Community Theatre is nothing short of a ridiculously good time.
Monty Python's Spamalot runs through November 2, 2019, at Woodside High School Performing Arts Center, 199 Church, Woodside CA. Performances are Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.woodsidetheatre.com.