TR Robertson — It’s slightly irreverent, a tad silly hilariously funny and a great way to spend an evening at the theatre. These were just some of the comments overheard by patrons of Cygnet Theatres as the first show of the 16th Season kicked off in Old Town with the production of Eric Idle’s “Spamalot”, with music by John du Prez and Idle. Led by Cygnet co-founder and director Sean Murry, as King Arthur, and a perfectly cast ensemble, this new season opening production was a successful start to the new season and one patrons will talk about for some time.
The musical is adapted from the 1975 “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, a parody of the Legend of King Arthur. It was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical. While on Broadway, the musical ran for 1,500 performances.
Photos by Ken Jacques
The musical begins with a Historian telling the audience, very briefly, about medieval England. He excuses himself and the actors and actresses arrive on stage performing the “Fisch Schlapping Song”, singing about Finland. The Historian returns angrily, telling the dancers he was speaking about England, not Finland. This silly beginning is just the start of a musical filled with double entendras, mildly bawdy jokes, funny twists and turns, cast members playing a variety of parts, uniquely designed stage props (to say the least) and a cast of characters that will have the audience in stiches throughout the musical.
The premise is Arthur, and his trusty side kick Patsy who also provides Arthur’s horse sounds with hanging coconuts, sets off to establish the Round Table and gather the best knights of the lands to help him in his quest to find the Holy Grail. Along the way he will encounter castle sentries who debate the migration of coconuts, a pair of peasants who will become the knights Sir Robin and Lancelot, the politically concerned Dennis Galahad and the Lady of the Lake. Arthur convinces the Lady of the Lake to help him turn Galahad into a knight. The final knight we meet if Sir Bedevere, known as “Sir Not Appearing-In-This-Show”. Camelot will appear on stage as a cut-out that looks a lot like the Vegas Excalibur hotel. Arthur seeks help in finding out what he and his knights should be doing and an image appears, representing God, who looks a lot like Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings”. Arthur is told to seek the Holy Grail.
This quest will lead to Arthur and his knights encountering some very bawdy, mean French soldiers, a battle with various French citizens, catapulting cows, a bizarre run-in with the Knights who say Ni demanding shrubbery, a battle with the Black Knight, a challenge to put on a musical “but not an Andrew Lloyd Webber” musical and a search for Jews to help put on a successful musical. If this isn’t enough, Arthur will “decide” to marry the Lady of the Lake, meet Tim the Enchanter who will warn him that his search for the Grail will cross paths with a rabbit, not just any rabbit – a killer rabbit, but this will help him find the Grail. A little audience participation, the end to the Quest and multiple weddings will bring this all to a fun-filled close.
Murray is at his best as King Arthur and handling the rapid fire dialog and songs that goes on between Arthur and his Knights and all of the situations they find themselves in. James Saba appears as Sir Robin. Saba is a Craig Noel Award nominated actor with numerous theatre and television appearances. Evan White is Sir Lancelot, making his debut with Cygnet Theatre. White’s performance as Lancelot is highlighted by the very funny and entertaining performance to “His Name is Lancelot” where Lancelot “comes out”. Sir Galahad is played by David S. Humphrey, with numerous regional theatre performances. He also plays the King of Swamp Castle in an outfit that looks right out of “Game of Thrones”.
An audience favorite was Jonathan Sangster who played Arthur’s trusty servant, Patsy. Sangster has the coconut-as-horse hooves down perfectly, stands out singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” to Arthur and as Arthur’s foil when Arthur sings “I’m All Alone” as Patsy stands right in front of him. The very talented and Christine Hewitt is the Lady of the Lake and has several standout songs in the show, “The Song That Goes Like This”, “Where Are You?”, and “The Diva’s Lament” also referred to as “Whatever Happened to My part?” where she complains about her length of time on stage. Hewitt’s sassy attitude fits “Spamalot’s” Lady perfectly. Another audience favorite is Bryan Banville, who had multiple roles as the Historian, Not Dead Fred, French Taunter and the popular Prince Herbert. As the effeminate Prince Herbert, with several standout numbers, “Where Are You?” and “Here Are You”, Prince Herbert steals the musical when he is on stage.
A wonderful ensemble and supporting cast makes this musical a definite audience pleaser as they present the multitude of song and dance routines with ease and humor. The remaining cast members include Drew Bradford, Trevor Cruse, Donny Gersonde, Siri Hafso, Jenny Henkel, Lauren Long, Janissa Rose, Kaleb Scott, and E.Y. Washington. Murray’s Creative Team includes Musical Director Terry O’Donnell, Choreographer Katie Banville, Stage Manager Craig Campbell, Properties Designer Bonnie Durben, Set Designer Sean Fanning, Wig & Make-up Peter Herman, Sound Designer Matt Lescault-Wood, Costume Coordinator Sarah Palmer Marion, Projection Designer Blake McCarty, and Lighting Designer Chris Rynne.
This is a fun musical everyone will enjoy, even the kids. “Spamalot” will run until August 5th. Tickets are available online at www.cygnettheatre.org or call 619-337-1525. Cygnet Theatre is located in San Diego’s Old Towne at 4040 Twiggs. St.