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Definitely NOT Dead: Lyric's 'Spamalot'

Lyric Theatre’s “Spamalot” opened to a supportive crowd, but they didn’t need one. This lively production of Eric Idle’s Tony-winning musical, directed by Ashley Wells, needed no prior good will to succeed. The rapid-fire comedy, with just the barest amount of time to accommodate the audience response, gave no one any time to ponder the meaning of life…or anything else. It was one laugh after another, starting with the assassination of the horn player.

The songs, by Idle and John du Prez, are enmeshed in the story, filled with bad puns and topical references, and would have a hard time standing alone as top 40 hits. They are demanding pieces of music and there is nothing light about the talent and skill needed to deliver this show.

“Spamalot” is “lovingly ripped off from” the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” which is loosely based—very, very loosely based—on Arthurian legends. Arthur, King of the Britons, delivered with solid “straight man” aplomb by Steve Blanchard, and his loyal squire Patsy, played with understated brilliance by Elliott Mattox, are on a quest to find knights for the “very, very, very Round Table.”

In the course of the story, we meet Dennis Galahad (Perry Sook), an “anarcho-syndicalist” mud collector who is convinced to join the ranks of the upper classes by the Lady of the Lake (Meredith Inglesby). Robin (Matthew Alvin Brown), a collector of dead bodies, and the thuggish Lancelot (Monte Riegel Wheeler) decide to join the knights—Lancelot for the fighting and Robin for the singing and dancing. The flatulent Sir Bedivere (Terry Runnels) turns up as well. Eventually, the whole group is commanded by the voice of God to “stop groveling” and seek the Holy Grail.

The cast, who at various times take on other roles in true Python style, was a solid ensemble, with no one person standing out until called upon to do so—and then standing out brilliantly. Inglesby was fiercely funny at the top of her magnificent and flexible voice, channeling Cher and others as needed. Brown delivered “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” with artistically balanced disingenuous irony. Wheeler’s “His Name is Lancelot” was an hysterically well-performed character arc in the course of a single dance routine. James Michael Avance as Prince Herbert was charmingly funny as an important love interest and musical motivator. Runnels as Bedivere was profoundly and dimly wise. Uncredited performances—the Historian, Brother Maynard, and Tim, among many others—were all of equal quality. Michael Baron executed his cameo role of Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show with similar competence.

Lyric Theatre is blessed with a company of talented singers and dancers, and the choreography by Brian Barry was sparkling, effervescent, frothy and superbly executed. Zak Sandler’s musical direction was note-perfect, and he is to be commended for continuing to conduct the excellent orchestra after the loss of the horn player in the overture and in the face of threats from the cast.

The moments of Las Vegas showgirl support, artfully costumed by Tim Hatley, created an immensely funny and ironic environment for many of the numbers. Hatley’s costumes and sets, provided by Musical Theatre West in Long Beach, delivered the color and spectacle that beautifully recalled the Terry Gilliam’s animation sequences from the original film.

This was high camp and broad farce done with grace and wit. This was comedic art. “Spamalot” is well worth your time and money. It plays this weekend only at the Civic Center Music Hall, with shows Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8:00, and Saturday at 2:00. Contact the box office at 405-524-9312 or at