On Stage

PCPA's 'Spamalot' is a grail of a tale

Or should that be a tale of a grail? Either way, PCPA Theaterfest brings the silly nonsense of ‘Spamalot’ to Solvang’s Festival Theater

Special to The TribuneJuly 25, 2013 

If you want to laugh a lot, see PCPA Theaterfest’s “Spamalot” at Solvang’s Festival Theater. Some of PCPA’s best comic actors revel in the silliness of some of the highlights of the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and add rousing ensemble song and dance numbers for a memorable evening of sheer entertainment.

“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” by former Python member Eric Idle, re-creates favorite scenes from the movie, such as the lewd Frenchman, the Knights who say Ni and the fierce rabbit, and sets it all to music. At the same time, they spoof stage musicals, with such songs as “The Song That Goes Like This,” satirizing the iconic romantic duet, and “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” (without a Jew).

Some of the dance numbers parody other musicals, such as a bottle dance like that in “Fiddler on the Roof,” with grails on the dancers’ heads instead of bottles. The encounter with the French includes a mime and can-can dancers. The dialogue is off-the-wall funny, with lots of rude humor and bathroom jokes, and the actors enjoy making the most of it.

The (sort-of) plot finds King Arthur, along with his obedient servant Patsy, trotting through the country to the sound of coconuts clapping together to sound like horses’ hoofs. He gathers a ragtag group of knights and takes them to Camelot, which is depicted in a lavish dance number as a Las Vegas resort, complete with an ensemble of showgirls.

After a bit of a light show and a booming speech from God, Arthur and his knights set out to find the Holy Grail (the drinking vessel from The Last Supper). Joseph Cannon, who has a fine singing voice, plays King Arthur as the most serious character in the scenario.

Each of the knights has a unique personality, but the actors all play a variety of other roles as the action ensues. The standout is Erik Stein, who is king of this unfettered style of comedy. He plays Sir Lancelot, who turns out to be gay, but he is also the rude Frenchman and other funny characters. Stein just received accolades as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” but this show lets his comic talents run wild. With his large frame, he is hilarious with physical comedy, strutting, dancing and posturing.

Paul Henry is a kick as the effeminate Prince Herbert, who turns out to be Lancelot’s love. Henry also plays Not Dead Fred, who resists being put on the cart of plague corpses (who all get up and sing and dance). He is also the historian narrator who introduces the show.

Michael Jenkinson, the production’s choreographer, plays Sir Robin, a cute and cowardly fellow. He has his own knack for comedy, and he’s a terrific dancer, always a treat to watch and shining in the lively tap numbers.

Billy Breed is sweet and sympathetic as Patsy, weighted down with the king’s luggage. When the king is depressed at one point, Patsy sings “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life,” the song that becomes a theme for the show.

George Walker is Sir Galahad, starting out as Dennis, an anti-royal liberal. But he is converted when Arthur introduces him to The Lady of the Lake, who gave the king his sword, Excalibur. Karin Hendricks is the lady, and with a strong voice and a sense of satire, goes from Broadway back to Camelot. Leo Cortez, another familiar PCPA actor, is good as Sir Bedevere and several other comical characters.

Michael Barnard directs this wild and crazy cast, and Callum Morris is musical director. The costumes, designed by Frederick P. Deeben, range from knights to show girls, including Finnish folk dancing outfits and the weirdly dressed knights who say Ni, as well as a two-story fantasy costume for Tim the Enchanter, who introduces the knights to the evil rabbit, a small puppet.

This is one of those shows where the performers have as much fun as the audience, and although there’s an attempt to inject an uplifting moral to the nonsense, it’s basically irreverent, funny and often rude — and loads of fun. If you go, dress warmly. It gets chilly at the outdoor theater, even after a warm day.

‘Spamalot’

8 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, through Aug. 10

Solvang Festival Theatre, 420 Second St., Solvang

$20.50 to $42

922-8313 or pcpa.org

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