"Spamalot" at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre is unabashedly crazy fun and perfectly captures the absurdist and often downright silly humor of British comedy group Monty Python.
The story is nominally about King Arthur and the knights going on a quest for the Holy Grail but the real point is setting up the zany song sequences and comedy bits, many which are straight from the 1975 cult film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
Simply said, the madcap musical, directed with flair by James Peck, is very funny nonsense set in the form of an outlandish Broadway musical.
The eye-popping set by Curtis Dretsch is almost like another character. Sight gags abound, and Dretsch has reproduced many of the iconic images from the show to a tee.
The curtain itself looks like a medieval drawbridge and huge descending cartoon feet and a hand, as well as the drifting clouds, recall the iconic artwork of Python Terry Gilliam. The castle set encompasses the stage and even beyond and the second act "dark and very expensive forest" is goofy and atmospheric at the same time.
Ed Bara is properly kingly as Arthur, the straight man of the piece. He has a booming voice that fits the character and ably commands the stage in the midst of all the goings-on.
Jordan Elman as Arthur's servant Patsy is hysterical. Known for providing the coconut clapping hoof beats of Arthur's non-existent horse, Elman can tell an entire story with his expressive face. He shone particularly in "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," along with a chorus line of umbrella-toting knights in a homage to "Singin' in the Rain." His total look of frustration during Arthur's "I'm All Alone," sung as he stood right next to Patsy, made the song.
The familiar "bring out your dead" scene culminates with a cart full of singing corpses and Josh Shapiro is hilarious as the grinning not-dead-Fred.
Steve Bauder is funny as the manly Lancelot and gets extra props for dancing in a silver codpiece in the goofy coming-out ode "His Name as Lancelot," a Latin-style number with dancing boys and Shapiro as the uber-effeminate Prince Herbert in a Carmen Miranda hat.
Jarrod Yuskauskas plays the cowardly Sir Robin and leads one of the funniest songs, "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," which sends up "Fiddler on the Roof," complete with a giant Star of David and knights doing the bottle dance with grails on their heads.
The Lady of the Lake, Shani Hadjian, is a standout. She has an amazing voice and the quicksilver ability to sing in different styles, switching at will as she parodies divas from Celine Dion and Liza Minnelli.
She and Bauder have a funny number in "The Song That Goes Like This," which apes "The Phantom of the Opera" with the couple standing in a boat singing while candles glow all around them.
Other Broadway shows, including the classic "West Side Story" and the contemporary "Newsies," also get humorous treatment.
Equally wacky are Justin Galletto as a Marxist Sir Galahad and Joshua Neth as the flatulent Sir Bedevere.
A high energy ensemble of male and female dancers make up dancing lines of knights, Vegas showgirls and "Laker" girls (the entourage of the Lady of the Lake) as they dance with maces, strategically placed buns and as cheerleaders with pompoms.
The references to the film are fast and furious. Arthur chops off the arms and legs of a knight who refuses to give up in a cleverly fashioned scene. And in another, taunting french soldiers with ridiculous moustaches intimidate Arthur and the knights with Can-Can girls (and boys) and even a dancing mime. Add to that the knights who says 'Ni" on stilts, a flying Tim the Enchanter and a whole glitzy Vegas number and you have one wild ride.
•"Spamalot," 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday, through July 27, Muhlenberg College, Trexler Pavilion, Baker Theatre, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Tickets: $39, $33, adults; $36, $29, seniors; $20, $18, students; $10, ages 5-18 at Sunday matinees. Info: 484-664-3693, http://www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT.
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