'Spamalot' gives Raleigh some knights full of laughter, plus a silly king
Posted November 16, 2016
Updated November 18, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — My undergraduate days at N.C. State included the occasional jaunt with friends over to Hillsborough Street to Studio I & II theater, long since closed, to watch the weekend showing of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." It was enough to memorize favorite scenes and not quite enough to alienate all the women I had a mind to date.
Still, if you'd have told me then that "Holy Grail" could be made into Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, the very idea would have struck me as silly. As if someone said a moose really did bite his sister.
Silliness is the hallmark of NC Theatre's Monty Python's Spamalot. Running through Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, "Spamalot" kicks off the North Carolina Theatre's 2016-17 season with a lusty raspberry.
I mean that in the best possible way. Silly irreverence served up Python-style. Four thpppt's up.
The show spoofs seemingly everything: chivalry, staid Arthurian legend, the proper foundation of government, its own movie origins, all that goes into producing a Broadway musical, audience expectations, Finland, French accents, you name it. There are no sacred cows. The closest was La Vache, and the French taunters launched it over the castle wall.
And Raleigh wasn't spared a few tweaks, either. In short, "Spamalot" keeps audiences guessing — and giggling. And as I saw, enjoying it didn't require being a Monty Python fan walking in.
An aficionado of Monty Python would, of course, recognize not only favorite vignettes and songs from "Holy Grail," but also smatterings of tunes, gags, and references from the rest of the comedy group's extensive canon. That was me. My wife, on the other hand — well, let's be honest, she never much cared for Monty Python at all.
But as for the "Spamalot," I'm happy to report, she enjoyed it a lot.
The fun of the production almost makes you forget about the artistry of the cast. Jeff McCarthy's King Arthur, Brandon Haagenson's Patsy, Pierce Cassedy (various roles), and the rest of the cast and ensemble marshaled the nuttiness through many unexpected turns.
Ta'Rea Campbell's Lady of the Lake wins as the production's very obvious diva, even as the role requires her to interrupt the narrative flow of Act II long enough to launch a high-flown lament asking "Whatever happened to my part?" Campbell manages to showcase serious vocal chops alongside comic sensibilities to the audience's delight.
Those interested can find their grail at the Duke Center while "Spamalot" is still playing. That is, unless you prefer a lofty King Arthur, a stirring Broadway musical refrain that "goes like that" without explicitly saying so, and — oh dear — a Lancelot that doesn't prance a lot.