Cast Brings Indomitable Energy to the Welk's Campy 'Spamalot'
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, September 17, 2023
Fans of the cult classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" love it for its over-the-top parody of King Arthur and all things medieval; rest assured that they will likewise adore Spamalot, played as it must be - dramatically - in its run at the Theatre at the Welk.
The musical, which features book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, bears a lot in common with the source material, the 1970s British comedy film. In the production, a historian (Zane Camacho) tells of King Arthur (Lance Arthur Smith) who, in 932 CE, is on the hunt for knights to join his Round Table. Shadowed by his squire, Patsy (Enrique Dueñas), the king finds himself defending his appointment to leadership by the Lady of the Lake (Janaya Mahealani Jones), furnishing his infamous sword, Excalibur, explaining his procurement of coconut shells used to mimic horseshoe clopping, and debating the merits of various systems of government. Via these efforts (and sometimes in spite of them), King Arthur is able to recruit and knight Sir Robin (Geno Carr), Sir Lancelot (Patrick Cummings), Sir Galahad (Jason Webb), and Sir Belvedere (Melissa Fernandes). As the court makes their way to the showgirl-laden dreamscape of Camelot, God appears (a la projection) and bestows upon them a sacred quest: to find the Holy Grail. The king and his knights traipse through the forests and towns of Europe to acquire it, meeting a number of characters: the Knights Who Say "Ni," a castle filled with denigrating French soldiers, and a chanteur prince seeking rescue from marriage for financial gain, among others. It's satirical and boldly offensive - on purpose! - and the cast leans into the comedy without fear.
When a company does a show like Spamalot, playfulness is what is needed, and it is fun to see that utter joy and energy here. In particular, I enjoyed Lance Arthur Smith's playful side after his recent performance as Secret Service Agent Frank in the Welk's The Bodyguard. His interactions with Enrique Dueñas range from hilarious to tender, and their songs "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and "I'm All Alone" are highlights of the production, along with the knights' "All for One!" and scenes featuring Prince Herbert (played cheekily by the vibrant Zane Camacho).
I must also applaud the sound designer (Jordan Gray), operator (Michael Lannon), and music director (Patrick Marion); balance was exceptional in this production, the actors were clear and lively, and the harmonies for the knights were accurate, well balanced, and vibrant.
I also enjoyed the little bits of ad lib and improv that were peppered throughout the show, including Camacho's homage to Kathy Brombacher in act 2, which helped make a potentially tired script a bit more relevant.
The version of the irreverent musical is under the direction of Nicole Marion and choreography by Katie Banville, and it is well performed by the versatile cast, which includes the aforementioned lead players (who also appear in several additional ensemble roles) as well as Doug Penikas, Alyssa Anne Austin, Sarah Morgan, Beatrice Crosbie, Shelby Monson, and Ashley Chavarria.
The number of outlandish costumes and wigs that are a part of this production also deserve a nod; these were well designed and executed by costume designer Janet Pitcher and wig designer Peter Herman, and the sheer number of them is pretty impressive. The show, played out on a campy set designed by McKenna Perry, is also well lit by Jennifer Edwards and features projections by David Engel.
It's a whole mood, Spamalot, but one that the performers clearly enjoy throwing themselves into, and a raucous, belligerent evening out. Monty Python fans, mark your calendars: the production runs Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 29.