Review: “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in San Rafael

Silliness takes the stage at Dominican University’s Forest Meadows Amphitheatre as the Marin Shakespeare Company presents Monty Python’s Spamalot. It’s the company’s first full musical production in thirty years.

“Lovingly ripped off” from the Python’s 1975 cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table on their quest to find the revered relic. Original Python member Eric Idle has taken the core of the screenplay and added songs (with John Du Prez) as well as bits of other Python business to come up with a full-fledged Broadway musical. Needless to say, it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with the comedy troupe’s repertoire.

King Arthur (Jarion Monroe) and his faithful servant Patsy (Bryan Munar) are scouring the English countryside for men to join the Court at Camelot. After gathering the likes of Robin (Phillip Percy Williams), Lancelot (Ariel Zuckerman), Galahad (Michael McDonald), and Bedevere (Nathan Townsend Levy), they’re off on their quest. Their journey will take them to a castle oddly manned by French soldiers and through a very expensive forest. Along the way they’ll encounter the Lady of the Lake (Susan Zelinsky), the Knights Who Say Ni, an argumentative Black Knight, a damsel in distress (Joseph Patrick O’Malley) and a killer rabbit before their quest is (somewhat) completed.

The silliness starts in “Monty Python’s Spamalot”.

Python humor runs the gamut from socio-political satire to outrageous slapstick. Some of it holds up after 40-plus years, some of it doesn’t. Drag has always been a component of British humor, but the evolution of that performance style has made it as archaic as pie throwing as a source of humor.  

Director Robert Currier, who along with music director Paul Smith and choreographer Rick Wallace consider themselves long-time fans of the comedy troupe, has gathered a game cast to execute the tomfoolery. Many of them essay several roles, with Monroe’s Arthur at the center as more-or-less the show’s straight man forced to deal with the silliness surrounding him. They’re all good, with O’Malley doing yeoman’s work in three very different roles – the Historian, Not Dead Fred, and Prince Herbert. Zelinksy is delightful as the Lady in the Lake and gets one of the show’s best musical numbers with “The Diva’s Lament”.

The timing and choreography could be crisper in several scenes and sound issues plagued the performance I attended, but if you’re on a quest for laughs, seek out Spamalot.

‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ runs through August 25 at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, 890 Belle Ave., San Rafael. Thursday – Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday, 4 pm. $10 – $38. 415.499.4488. marinshakespeare.org.   

Photos by Jay Yamada.

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.

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