Lakewood Playhouse mounts a hilarious production of Spamalot.
My son Del and daughter-in-law Johanna and I went to see Spamalot, the Musical at the Lakewood Playhouse. We invited them because they love the production. One of Del’s favorite movies is The Life of Brian, also a Monty Python production. When they were in New York City a few years ago to attend Johanna’s brother Zeke’s wedding, they had the chance to see Spamalot on Broadway – a highlight of Del’s life.
I wanted to go because I love musicals, almost all, except I didn’t enjoy the dour Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, mostly because it has such a dark story and the music seemed monotonous. I also wanted to go because Don and I had spent big bucks to see Spamalot when it was at the Paramount in Seattle and we didn’t enjoy it at all. All the spoken and musical audio was so overdriven that we couldn’t understand a single thing that was said or sung. That was a shameful waste of money!
Now, at Lakewood Playhouse, you’re in a small auditorium with seating on three sides and everything, I must emphasize this, everything that’s said or sung is immediately understood.
I particularly enjoyed the production because it was one silliness after another with complications resulting from the last 50 silly cock-ups. This skewering of the romantic Walt Disney version of Arthur turned every chivalrous virtue to a ridiculous invention and an insult to the intelligence of mankind.
The band (Deborah L. Armstrong, August Giles, Dexter Stevens, Erin McBride and Tyler Ussery) performed very well and were also accessories to the silliness. They played such stirring music with small moments of highlighting cleverly silly actions.
The actors were superb, performing this mayhem and accepting it with a generous manner and an enormous amount of team work. Director John Munn managed a great production with singing, dancing, Shakespeare-esque insults (French soldiers safe in the castle to the knights: Your father is a hamster, etc.) and such good humor. The stage crew members (Nena Curley, Stephanie Huber and Kira Zinck) and the sound designer Dylan Twiner were also part of the action. They were characters, they were comic foils, they openly moved the props around and, best of all, they were funny.
The play opens with a troupe of traditional European-costumed dancers, who are doing a sort of quasi-German dance where the men slap the legs of their lederhosen. The point of it is that the men don’t do any slapping in this number; the women dancers end up slapping the men in the kisser with stuffed and sequined fish. The hilarity commences. One of the favorite scenes is during the plague. The town residents are called to "Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!" One poor citizen is dragged to the cart but tells them "I'm not dead yet!" The body collectors tell him, "Yes you are!" The still living person tells them, "But, I'm not dead yet!!" "Oh yes you are!", until the man finally passes out from being beaten over the head so often.
King Arthur (Steve Tarry) prances onto the stage, followed by his faithful and totally unappreciated servant Patsy (Coleman Hagerman) who beats out the horse hooves with two coconut halves. He’s a very talented percussion player, able to produce every gait a horse might have, from walk, a canter, a trot, all the way to a gallop; I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear him in a band soon displaying his coconut skills.
King Arthur is on a quest to find knights for his Round Table. He says that he is the King of the land. The country’s denizens counter, “I never voted for you. What makes you king?” He counters that the Lady of the Lake (a dynamic Gretchen Boyt) gave him a beautiful and mighty sword; therefore, he is the king.
In some circumstances, King Arthur selects the knights-to-be, or, he begs them to join the Round Table. Sir Bevedere (Brandon Ehrenheim), Sir Lancelot (Xander Layden), randy Sir Galahad (Gary J. Chambers), and Sir Robin (Timothy McFarlan) all agreed to be cajoled into the inner Round circle.
The Historian (Kyle Sinclair) is a properly professorial stuffy character. He expounds on the people and events of the past, from 900 A.D, and is dismayed at the characters random and seemingly impulsive decisions.
The Lady of the Lake (Gretchen Boyt) is a pivotal character. She exerts her power, sometimes in vain, attempting to control the cast through Arthur. She sings many songs very well and includes every musical cliché of popular music from the ‘80s on. I was charmed to hear the parodies because, in the past, I was very annoyed with so many pop singers who sang scales and slid around the notes trying to find the right note of otherwise decent music.
The fake Laker Girls (Kadi Burt, Brittany Griffins, Jill Hienecke, Stephanie Huber and Jennifer King) were another form of parody. They trotted onto the stage at different times during the action and performed cheer routines, complete with pompoms, and various dances (the cancan was featured) to show approval of the actions.
Monty Python’s Spamalot was so clever and funny and well acted that it was a joy to see. I got an internal workout from the laughter.
Spamalot runs through July 13 but it is very popular. It was oversold the night we went. Visit Lakewood Playhouse or call (253)588-0042 to get your tickets.