‘Spamalot’ to offer ‘pure unadulterated silliness’
MNM Productions showcases Monty Python’s classic.
Pompom wielding cheerleaders, tap-dancing knights, a diva who vents her pique at not having enough scenes and a quest that involves mounting a Broadway show. Monty Python’s Spamalot is not your typical Arthurian legend brought to the stage
The musical, a descendant of the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, features a book and lyrics by Python alumnus Eric Idle, who also composed much of the music with John Du Prez.
The show, which snapped up three 2005 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, opens MNM Productions’ season Friday at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse.
Di rec tor-choreog rapher Kimberly Dawn Smith is old enough to have watched the British comedy troupe’s surreal groundbreaking television series Monty Python’s Flying Circus when it first aired in the late 1960s and early 1970s and to remember the movie fondly.
But many of her young cast members are not. “I tell them if you can let your mind go and laugh at the funny stuff you’re OK,” she said. “It’s pure unadulterated silliness.”
That’s good advice for the audience, too.
As for her, “you forget how silly Monty Python is,” she said. “Once you get into the script, you laugh so hard you cry.”
Although the musical includes favorite scenes from the movie — the knight who won’t give up the fight even after all his limbs are lopped off, and the French defenders who hurl creative insults at King Arthur and his knights, for example — the show isn’t an exact staging of the film.
It introduces a Lady of the Lake, accompanied by her scantily clad Laker Girls, and the mission to stage a Broadway musical, which plays no part in the movie.
As you might expect, the musical features several big production num- bers, such as “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” in which umbrella-wielding and tap-dancing knights cheer up a discouraged King Arthur.
The show unabashedly sends up a number of Broadway musicals. Andrew Lloyd Webber particularly takes it on the chin with the often-repeated, overblown “The Song That Goes Like This.”
Musical director Paul Reekie leads a seven-piece band. He plays two keyboards because “there are so many sound effects in the show,” he said.
True to Monty Python’s irreverent spirit, the show offers several opportunities for performers to ad lib and insert references to current events.
Laura Hodos, who plays the Lady of the Lake, was heard in a rehearsal to announce “I’m here to make Camelot great again.”
MNM’s team have the lines and music well in hand, said Michael Lifshitz, who with his pro- ducing partner, Marcie Gorman-Althof, own the for-profit company.
The biggest challenge in mounting the show was figuring out a way to get the dozens of props on and off stage and the countless costume changes accomplished in a theater that has neither a backstage nor wing space.
“We have a cow, a giant rabbit, a cart carrying dead people, gaming tables, giant dice and a cast of 20 changing costumes every time they walk off stage,” Lifshitz said. (Most performers play multiple parts.)
Their solution was to remove the Rinker’s portable stage and build a giant castle set with two 24-foot towers that functions as a backstage and dressing room.
MNM’s quest is to mount the show as faithfully as possible, Smith said, and to make sure audiences go home with a smile.