By LORRAINE WARDLE
In “Spamalot,” King Arthur and his knights “eat ham and jam and Spam a lot.” They also sing, dance and have a rousing good time.
“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which made its local premiere Friday at the Youngstown Playhouse, is a raucous and irreverent comedy “lovingly ripped off from” the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The opening night audience was enthused and appreciative of the famous (or is it infamous?) Monty Python humor.
Like “The Holy Grail,” “Spamalot” is a parody of Arthurian legend. The Tony Award-winning musical includes all of the sketches and gags that fans obsess over, with a few other Python favorites thrown in.
The play begins with a historian, who introduces us to England in the Middle Ages. We then follow King Arthur as he collects knights for his round table and goes on a quest to find the Holy Grail. Along the way, they meet all kinds of strange and hilarious characters, finally succeeding on their quest.
Many of the musical numbers are taken from the movie, and others are new. Fans of the Pythons in the audience loved the Knights Who Say Ni and the Killer Rabbit, as well as The Fish-Slapping Dance from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from “Life of Brian.” The show is full of sight-gags, slapstick and self-referencing humor.
Director Lester Malizia has assembled an impressive cast of performers, most of whom played multiple roles. Under the musical direction of Kevin Shields, the cast sang perfectly and tackled the challenging choreography by Jonelle Paris.
David El’Hatton led the cast as King Arthur with commanding stage presence and flawless delivery. As the Lady of the Lake, Whitney Jenkins impressed with her powerful singing voice.
Anthony Ventura, David Lynch, Travis Ascione and Alan McCreary made up the core of knights as well as other unique characters, each one distinct and hilarious. Mark McConnell’s Patsy was endearing and funny. Donny Wolford stood out in his performances, especially Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert.
Jimmy Lybarger’s set design worked perfectly for the satiric show, complete with representational set pieces and Python-esque clouds. Leslie Brown’s lighting design complemented the set design, while Elizabeth Nalepa created amazing costumes for the many different characters in the show.
Opening night’s performance began a little slowly, but picked up the pace during Act 2. As more and more Python characters took the stage, the audience roared with laughter. While the occasional microphone glitch made it difficult to understand the cast at times, the overall production was professional and entertaining.
In the movie, King Arthur says, “Let’s not go to Camelot; it is a silly place.” But I disagree. The silliness is what makes “Spamalot” so enjoyable. Don’t miss your opportunity to see it.
“Spamalot” continues today and next Sunday at 2:30 and Friday and Saturday at 7:30 at The Youngstown Playhouse. For tickets, call 330-788-8739 or visit www.theyoungstownplayhouse.com.