Story by Paul Love
SPAMALOT, like most things conceived from the minds of the prolific British comedy troupe Monty Python, is irreverent and silly, but can be thoroughly enjoyable in the hands of a cast that understands how to present it. It has been said in theatrical circles that the secret to effectively performing comedy is not in the funny moments themselves, but in how seriously the characters take themselves. The cast of the Ryleepuss Productions staging of SPAMALOT goes far to strengthen that notion.
For those not familiar with the show or its source film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it is the tale of King Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail. As in all good comedy, things don’t come easily for our main protagonist, as Arthur and his knights must endure taunting, challenges, and indifference from politically charged peasants, rude French soldiers, and strange woodland knights, among others. The show is, in essence, a showcase of humorous songs, both new and old (taken not only from the source film, but from other past Python works), and some of the film’s funniest scenes that are, in some cases, recaptured word-for-word.
From a certain perspective, there are two types of people: those who really get Monty Python, and everybody else. This cast really gets Monty Python. And top marks go to Shawn Elliot who has the pleasure of playing some of the best characters on the SPAMALOT/Holy Grail roster. He comfortably — and hilariously — transitions between the warmth and bravado of Sir Lancelot, the silly impertinence of the French Taunter, and the fever-dream kookiness of the Head Ni! Knight. Doug Hammond also deserves kudos for mining the comedic gold to be found in solidly performing Not Dead Fred, Robin’s hilarious Lead Minstrel, and the ever-complaining Prince Herbert.
Alex Amini and the costume team deserve special mention for creating some wonderful costumes that, in many cases, look as though they were taken right from the set of the film.
An addition to the stage version of the tale is the Lady of the Lake, the mystical being who presented Arthur with the great sword Excalibur, making him King of the Britons. In this production, she assists Arthur in his Grail quest and entertains Arthur and his knights at various places along the way, while also struggling with her desire for more on-stage time in a wink-wink nudge-nudge nod to the lack of meaty female roles in male-dominated theatre productions. Michelle Kettrick as the Lady of the Lake is the jewel in this production’s crown. Her performance is appropriately bright and glamorous, and when she sings songs like “Come With Me” and “Find Your Grail”, her powerhouse voice soars, filling the Uxbridge Music Hall with electricity. Not content to simply be a good singing voice in a musical production, Ms. Kettrick displays solid acting chops, giving us a performance that is just as goofy and silly as that of her fellow cast members, which makes her top-notch singing all the more disarming whenever she breaks into song once again.
Despite a few lighting and sound glitches, the cast rises to the daunting challenge of performing Monty Python, and they do so very well. If you’re in the mood for an evening of irreverent musical comedy with a beating heart, it’s worth the canter to Uxbridge to see Ryleepuss Productions’ SPAMALOT.