For those who have been living under a rock since the mid-1970s, Monty Python was an English comedy group made up of Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese, and Michael Palin. They were a luminary and highly influential group, whose special brand of surrealist comedy has added a seemingly endless number of bizarre non-sequiturs to the lexicon, many of which might be shrieked at college parties or flung about as peculiar answers to ordinary questions, especially if you're located somewhere in the Commonwealth. "Spamalot" is a musical based on perhaps the Python's most famous film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." It is absurd. It is non-linear. It is often deeply confusing to Americans. It is absolutely bloody brilliant.
From the direction of Renee Hewitt, Camelot Theatre has made "Spamalot" one of the best things it has done since "La Cage Aux Folles," which they mounted at this time last year. Almost everyone with any connection to the Camelot talent pool is on stage and giving it their rollicking best, including Don Matthews as a befuddled and hilarious King Arthur.
Zaq Wentworth portrays Sir Robin — a decidedly unbrave knight who craps himself with alarming frequency at the sign of any trouble. Isaac Bergstrom plays Patsy, Arthur's trod-upon sidekick, and Cody Pettit is a flamboyantly gay Sir Lancelot. Rigo Jimenez, Erny Rosales, Courtney Crawford, Joey Larimer, Kate Ashworth and others from the current stable of the Company's robust young talent pool are all on stage in various ensemble roles.
It is a dizzying spectacle, and having last week reviewed the big flamboyant summer offering of the most important theatre in the region, I was struck by how much more the Camelot is doing with a far smaller budget. There are fish fights, endless costume changes, Trojan rabbits (just see it), French soldiers of foul temperament, maraca bands, showgirls with multiple costume changes, an ultra-touchy Almighty God, a cheer-leading squad fit for a king, monks who hit themselves in the head with holy books during incantations, an ultra-politicized peasant with a penchant for socialist Utopian collectives, an overly ambitious Black Knight, an inflatable, projectile cow, word play galore, and, of course, the knights who say "ni!", which, if you're unfamiliar, you might want to read up on before you attend.
Inside all of these shenanigans are the usual serious political messages that made the Monty Python group so critically acclaimed in class-obsessed Britain. Questions of social stature, leftist politics, monarchic entitlement and closeted gayness abound, despite being sheathed in glittering costumes and hilarious scenarios. Speaking of the costumes, I'm not sure what designer Kayla Bush has been smoking, but I want some of it; this show is easily the most complex in terms of sartorial impact than any I have seen at the theatre since I started reviewing there. You could watch the production from start to finish with the sound off and still come away with your money well spent.
As the Lady of the Lake, Kristen Calvin has stolen this show as a gyrating, Janis Joplin style ruler of Avalon. Calvin is saucy and shimmering, backed up by a group of chorus girls; she summarily seduces Arthur and marks her man with a combination of sex appeal and political mechanizing that would make Mata Hari feel right at home. Calvin carries much of the water in this show, which seems only appropriate considering the fact that her character lives most of her life submerged in it.
Rosales has a funny few moments as a dimwitted guard who is charged with securing a problematic princeling, and Jiminez is amusing as an irate, traditional father who doesn't want to see his son on the stage; a brief metamorphosis into a Trump-style authority figure is a sly poke at the current political scene.
Overall, this is the most on-point show that Camelot has done in a long time. It's two and a half hours of hilarious derangement — a respite from the current state of the world. Get into Camelot and see this show, before you kick the bucket, run down the curtain, join the choir invisible, and become an ex-parrot.
SPAMALOT plays at Camelot Theatre through July 23.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.