Monty Python’s “Spamalot” opened at the NorShor Theatre on Friday night after establishing a new Playhouse record for longest rehearsal period: one year, eight months and one week (narrowly surpassing “A Chorus Line”).
Maybe all shows should spend that much time in rehearsal because “Spamalot” is a fantastic show and the perfect vehicle to get patrons back in the theater.
The overture got more laughs than some shows I have seen.
When it comes to bits from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Spamalot” is really Python-plus, constantly adding references to plumage, suspenders and a bra, and such.
The trick is carrying off the familiar comedy routines without descending into imitation. The Mud Castle debate regarding the migratory habits of coconuts immediately proved the cast knew what they were doing.
You know that thing that happens to directors after the show closes where they figure out things they could have done? Well that must have happened to Justin Peck every week for a year. That is the only explanation for the jaw dropping number of additional bells and whistles he crammed into this production.
I knew Peck was a Python aficionado, but this was just a mind-blowing new level of idolatry.
Chris Nollet once again plays King Arthur, the straight man adrift in a sea of lunatics, whose best moment is the drolly ironic “I’m All Alone.” Kyle McMillan, who is probably my favorite second banana in town, is the loyal Patsy, doing a mean job with those two empty halves of a coconut.
If you have a Facebook friend who is Facebook friends with Christina Stroup then you are well away she has been dying to play the Lady of the Lake. This would help explain why she absolutely slayed the audience who hooted and hollered at her hysterical vocal histrionics, especially during her longue act at Camelot and “The Diva’s Lament” in Act 2.
Wow. Just, wow.
Most of the cast are playing multiple parts and part of the fun is seeing which of their roles you remember the most in the end: Sam Hildestad as Not Dead Fred looking like he is about to do “The Safety Dance,” Stuart Gordon’s Sir Robin taking issue with the song his minstrel is singing, and Ole Dack’s almost professorial Dennis debating the merits of monarchy.
Each time I see “Spamalot,” different scenes rise to the top, such as the Laker Girls routine choreographed by Matthew Wagner, trying to spell C-A-M-E-L-O-T with shields, the encounters with the French Taunters and the Knights of Ni, and the (how do I put this) supplicating nun.
Jeff Brown's scenic design keeps each castle on the quest unique and Peg Ferguson's crew came up with enough costumes to dress an army large enough to teach the French Taunters to regret their folly. Kyle Picha's orchestra sounded great, the project animation looked great, and bravo to the møøse trainer.
Finally, have fun trying to figure out which of the three rabbits in the show you liked the best.
If you go:
What: Monty Python’s "Spamalot"
Where: NorShor Theatre, 211 E. Superior St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 17-Oct. 3
Tickets: Available at duluthplayhouse.org
Lawrance Bernabo is a theater and arts reviewer for the Duluth News Tribune. He believes supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.