Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Uneven 'Spamalot' has its Moments

The all-local cast of Monty Python's Spamalot at The 
5th Avenue Theatre. Photo: Mark Kitaoka

Although “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture, Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” as the posters state, 5th Avenue’s production of Spamalot will win over fans while losing those who are easily offended. The uneven production features some truly hilarious scenes, but like the movie it is based on, it loses it way about two thirds in. While the writers took the best and threw out the rest, they replaced the remaining lackluster content with other lackluster content.

Spamalot opens with a historian who tells the audience about history of King Arthur beginning deep in England. The musical number, the “Fisch Schlapping Song,” mistakenly shares the virtues of Finland. It is a scene not found in the movie, but taken from one of the troupe’s TV episodes and is one of the show’s best gimmicks.

Laura Griffith, center, stars as the Lady of the Lake.
Photo: Mark Kitaoka
Soon, we are introduced to King Arthur (Allen Fitzpatrick) and Patsy (Greg McCormick Allen), slapping coconuts together instead of actually riding horses. The pair is the best thing of this show. They meet up with Sir Robin (Matt Owen), Sir Lancelot (Dane Stokinger), Sir Dennis Galahad (Louis Hobson), the Lady of the Lake (Laura Griffith) and the Laker Girls and Sir Bedevere (Richard Gray). They visit Camelot for an extended Vegas-like number (What happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot after all) where they receive a message from God to retrieve the Holy Grail. The troupe travels to a castle that is inhabited by rude French soldiers. After a failed attempt to break into the castle, the knights of the “really round table” split off into different directions. From there, the plot is almost nonexistent.

In Act II, The Lady of the Lake sings “Whatever Happened to My Part?”, the Knights Who Say Ni demand a shrubbery, Arthur battles the Black Knight who though loses all of his appendages, still eggs him on and Lancelot thinks he’s rescuing a princess locked in a castle, but it turns out to be a prince instead. Finally, the Holy Grail is found in the audience, which is actually quite clever and fun.

Sir Robin (Matt Owen, center) and his minstrels (l-r Pamela Turpen,
Gabriel Corey, Joshua Carter, and Charlie Johnson)
Photo: Tracy Martin
While Spamalot is fairly good-natured silly stuff, it will offend some. The overall tone of the story seems to mock those of faith. Monks hit their heads with Bibles, “God” comes down from the heavens and swears “Jesus!,” a priest and a nun dance together, etc. There is also quite a bit more swearing that is usually featured in a 5th Avenue play. Like other modern theatre productions, Spamalot takes a good amount of time to remind the audience that gay men are attracted to the theatre and they are all effeminate. This fact is celebrated with Lancelot realizing that he is gay and a whole disco-themed song is built around the discovery. It’s a crowd-pleaser, but I would think that some in attendance would not approve of the stereotype. Finally, there is a scene where the knights are told that they will not succeed with a Broadway show because they have no Jews. The scene is a head-scratcher because while it is not offensive, one wonders if it is supposed to be. It also isn’t funny.

Spamalot continues through March 2. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 206.625.1900. The theatre is located at 1308 5th Avenue, Seattle 98101.

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