The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Monty Python's Spamalot
Organization Roseville Theatre Arts Academy
Date(s) of show September 19 - October 11, 2014
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb

I’ve been a big fan of Monty Python from the beginning (the early 70s) and especially of the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail which gave a humorous, irreverent take on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  The Broadway adaptation preserved a lot of the humorous scenes and even the dialog of the movie, so why didn’t I like it when I saw the national touring company perform it a couple of years ago?  I don’t recall much of it, except that it seemed to lack the spark of unexpected zaniness that I was hoping for.

I witnessed that spark last night at the opening of Roseville Theatre Arts Academy’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot.  And that spark came not so much from the script as from the reckless abandon with which so many of the actors played their parts, and the countless creative touches in staging, props, set, and unscripted dialog that kept us in the audience laughing.  It felt like a constant stream of jokes, witticisms, satire, sight gags, physical comedy, and even a bit of scatological humor.

The musical numbers themselves were similarly laden with humor.  Some felt like full-scale production numbers that ranged far from Arthurian England with styles of Parisian Can-Can shows, folk dancing (à la Fiddler on the Roof), a gay cabaret show, a lounge singing act too many to recall them all.  And the extraordinarily versatile nine-piece orchestra, led by Music Director Jennifer Vaughn, gave a seamless accompaniment (and occasional sound effects) to this musical potpourri.

I found the singing solid especially the ensemble singing.  But the main singing part was that of the Lady of the Lake, performed by Erin Gabriele.  She was in half a dozen numbers, and we in the audience were simply stunned by her vocal talents.  Not only is she a strong singer, but a song stylist with comic flair.  You rarely hear a voice like hers in community theatre.

This show would properly be classified as a farce, but it takes good acting to make a farce work, and this show was full of good acting.  Rob Hayes seemed like the perfect King Arthur, maintaining his accent and kingly bearing through all the show’s improbable plot twists.  And Colton Archey as Patsy, King Arthur’s squire, was inspired in the role and a delight to watch.  There were 20 people in all in the cast (though it felt more like 50).  Stuart Eldridge, Bob Walatka, Ken Duisenberg, Scott Minor and Clocky McDowell were Knights of the Round Table and played all the other speaking parts.  They maintained their accents, often seemed to channel the original Monty Python cast, and played their outrageous roles with abandon.  Then there were the men’s ensemble and the women’s ensemble, both an especially entertaining part of each musical number.  The latter consisted of 4 women who had more costume changes than I could count, danced in many different styles, and, with the men, gave an boost to each scene they were in.  They all seemed to be having great fun, and I felt their energy, but I have to single out Jesse Larossa.  He was listed in the men’s ensemble, but he was actually the fifth member of the women’s ensemble dressed exactly like them (with a wig and an often-apparent hairy chest), and making the same moves as the women.  I don’t often find men in drag amusing, but Larossa played his part so brilliantly that I couldn’t help but laugh every time he was on stage.  It was as though he didn’t know he wasn’t a girl, emulating the movements of the others so accurately.  I’m still laughing.

This show was a complete package of excellence.  Eileen Beaver is a costumer par excellence, and she outdid herself for this production.  The set and set pieces did well in setting the mood.  But the fact that this 2 hours of craziness worked so well is no doubt largely attributable to the talents of Director, Michelle Raskey.  Only the actors, musicians and crew know how much of her is reflected in the creative touches that made this production so much more enjoyable than the professional version I witnessed two years ago.  My guess, though, is that her comic instincts and eye for detail were as important as the talent on stage (and in the orchestra pit) in making this production work.

And this production didn’t just “work” for me.  The audience laughed their way through the show, and there was no question that the performance had earned a standing ovation.  Silly?  Yes.  Manic?  Yes.  But wonderfully clever and constantly entertaining.  If you “get” Monty Python, you’ll love this show.

 Reviews Home    Organizations    Shows