Reviewed by Suzanne Angeo (member, American Theatre Critics Association; Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle), and Greg Angeo (Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle)
Photos by Bureau Detroit
Chris Bateson, Nick Cupelli, Jeffrey Weiner (with coconut shells) Dan Rose, Katie Fairgrieve
A Look on the Funny Side
Monty Python’s Flying Circus revolutionized television back in 1969, breaking all the rules with off-the-wall sketch comedy and bizarre animated sequences. The legendary comedy troupe Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) soon branched off into music, films and live shows, including a number of successful musicals.
One of these is “Spamalot”, based on their 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” that totally skewers the Arthurian legend. “Spamalot” became a critically acclaimed smash hit, previewing on Broadway in February 2005 and running for four years. Seen by over two million people, it garnered 14 Tony nominations, winning three, including for Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. It went on to performances and tours worldwide, with a Broadway revival coming up in November 2023. According to Idle, who wrote the book and lyrics (with music by Idle and John DuPrez), the title “comes from a line in the movie which goes: ‘we eat ham, and jam, and Spam a lot.’ ”
Dan Rose, Jeffrey Weiner
To open their 68th season, Stagecrafters has really pulled out all the stops, talent-wise. Their bright and jubilant presentation of “Spamalot” offers wonderful performances from cast and crew. Everything is top notch – from staging, costumes, song and dance (even real tap-dancing!) to the excellent 14-piece orchestra. Colorful animated backdrop projections really make the show, allowing for scene changes in the blink of an eye and some memorable images.
Trying to describe the plot would be futile. As Jones (co-director of the film version) said: “Spamlot is utterly pointless…it’s full of air.” A souffle of silliness, to be sure. In no particular order, expect flying cows, gross dismemberment, singing plague victims, the mysterious hand of God, a Trojan rabbit, cancan dancers, and shrubbery. Plus a Very Expensive Forest. Oh, and of course, Spam. You get the idea.
Deanna Daly makes a strong directorial debut with her fast-paced, never-a-dull-moment staging and guidance of the 22-member cast (some playing multiple roles). Among the standout performances: Katie Fairgrieve as the Lady of the Lake (“Whatever Happened to my Part?”) has just the right balance of great comedy chops, dance skills and a real belter’s voice. Stagecrafters set design and directing veteran Dan Rose, as King Arthur, can deliver a song and kick up his heels with the best of them, even though his last outing onstage was almost ten years ago. Nick Cupelli as Sir Belvedere, and Jeffrey Weiner as Patsy (a virtuoso on coconut shells), really ham it up with authority.
The rest of the ensemble cast demonstrates some notable dancing (splendid fan kicks) and comedy skills in numbers like “Not Dead Yet”, and the show stopping “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway (if You Don’t Have Any Jews”), which features a dance sequence that has to be seen to be believed. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, performed near the start of Act II, also closes the show in a dazzling, exuberant finale.
Also deserving a shout-out: choreographer N’Jeri Nicholson; music director Matthew Kush; costume designer Kimberly Wallace and technical director Becca Wisniewski.
Whether you’re a fan of Monty Python or never heard of them, you’re sure to enjoy this joyful, irreverent and hopelessly silly show. For a little over two hours, you get to look on the bright side of life. Well worth a visit.
Wyatt Setty, Chris Bateson, Nick Cupelli, Jeffrey Weiner, Dan Rose
Not recommended for young children
Now through October 1, 2023
Tickets $35; $25 on Thursdays ($3 ticket fee for all tickets purchased online, by phone or at the door)
Stagecrafters at the Baldwin Theatre, Main Stage
415 S. Lafayette
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Stagecrafters is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit performing arts organization with support from: Michigan Arts & Culture Council; National Endowment for the Arts; Royal Oak Arts Council; Oakland County; Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority; and DTE Foundation