Regional Reviews: San Diego
That's certainly one of the appeals of Spamalot, the musicalization of several classic Monty Python routinesit never for one minute wants to be anything more than fun. Oh, it helps to be hip to the Python sense of humor and to know something about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. But, even if you went in without any of that knowledge, you'd probably still have a good time.
Sean Murray, artistic director of Cygnet Theatre, starred as King Arthur in a production of Spamalot at Moonlight Stage Productions four years ago. Now, he's back in the role at his home theatre and directing as well. Cygnet is a much smaller space than Moonlight, but Mr. Murray's direction takes full advantage of what he has and then some.
"A new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail," reads the show's subtitle, and that about sums it up. In the movie, the Pythons go on a quest and encounter lots of funny weirdness along the way. In the musical (book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle), the weirdness is accompanied by humorous parodies of show tunes. I dare you to sing the song "Find Your Grail" with a straight face, for example.
And, there's more: the eternally self-referential "Song That Goes Like This," a power ballad several times over for The Lady of the Lake (Christine Hewitt) and her "Laker Girls" (Siri Hafso, Jenny Henkel, Lauren Long, and Janissa Rose Saracino, plus a ringer or two, sometimes). Or, the big post-intermission song and dance number, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," which goes out of its way, lyrically, to deny the message of its title.
In between, there are classic Python routines such as "I'm not dead yet," The French Taunter, and the Knights that Say "Ni!"
To pull off both song and speech requires a marvelous ensemble, and Mr. Murray has recruited one. Ms. Hewitt and Brian Banville both performed their roles in the Moonlight version, and the others make splendid knights (David S. Humphrey as Sir Galahad, Anthony Methvin as Sir Bedevere, James Saba as Sir Robin, and Evan White as Sir Lancelot), as well as other characters (the male ensemble includes Drew Bradford, Trevor Cruse, Donny Gersonde, and E.Y. Washington). Jonathan Sangster delights as Patsy, the second banana to Mr. Murray's Arthur.
A sixteen-person cast is a crowd for Cygnet's thrust stage, but Mr. Murray's direction manages the comings and goings with both speed and precision. Katie Banville's choreography looks great in the space and is well executed by all concerned. Sean Fanning's set design leaves open as much stage space as possible, and Chris Rynne's lighting, Matt Lescault-Wood's sound and Blake McCarty's projections keep the production enjoyable from a technical standpoint. Sarah Palmer-Marion manages the, apparently rented, costumes, as well as coordinating quite a few quick changes.
Music director Terry O'Donnell leads a six-piece band that sounds like a lot more, thanks in no small degree to Patrick Marion's orchestrations.
Most of all, everyone looks as though they're having a great time, including the audience. What more can you ask for on a warm summer evening?
Spamalot, through August 12, 2018, at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street, in the heart of San Diego's Old Town State Historic Park. Performs Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8pm, and Sunday at 2 and 7pm. Tickets may be purchased at www.cygnettheatre.com or by phoning the box office at 619-337-1525.