They came. They saw. They sang. They danced.
Sir Robin slew the vicious Chicken of Bristol. Arthur, king of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, sovereign of all England, vanquished the Black Knight. Audiences savored the glories (and the dancing girls) of Camelot.
And it was good. Very, very good. Spectacular even.
"Become a knight and you'll go far / in suspenders and a bra!"
"Spamalot," the musical "lovingly ripped off" from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," clip-clopped into BIG ARTS Herb Strauss Theater on Sanibel this weekend.
Much like last season's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," the crew at BIG ARTS, led this time by director/choreographer Amy Marie McCleary, prove able to conceive, plan and execute a staggeringly creative vision. Better, their success comes in a unique space that most folks would deem hostile (if not downright impossible) to a big, splashy, over-the-top fantasy musical like "Spamalot."
McCleary firmly establishes her bona fides as one of the best director/choreographer hyphenates in Southwest Florida with this show. She roots the show solidly within the silly, slapstick, snarky fun of the originAl Monty Python troupe. Yet, she's not afraid to embellish; witness shout-outs to "Les Miserables," "Gangnam Style" and even a sly reference to musical "Company."
If perhaps not as elegantly polished and perfected as "Scoundrels," the slightly frantic, gleeful, whiz-bang atmosphere of "Spamalot" fits the show perfectly. Mounted in just 12 days, from learning the intricate choreography to building the massive set, the show represents a triumph for all involved.
Perhaps the best number comes midway through Act Two. John Ramsey, playing the cowardly Sir Robin in a flowing wig, belts out calculated to offend "You Won't Succeed on Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)." McCleary stages the number brilliantly - bringing out a teeny, tiny piano - think Schroeder from "Peanuts" - and letting Ramsey play the intro.
Plink. Plink. Plink. Then, he starts banging away, Jerry Lee Lewis-style before sitting on top and playing with his hands behind his back. Before long, he's tap-dancing on top, surrounded by an all-singing, all-dancing ensemble belting: "Nobody will go, sir / If it's not kosher then no show, sir / Even Goyim won't be dim enough to choose!"
What "Spamalot" does so well is exude fun. The cast obviously loves what they're doing, loves being on stage, adores performing and couldn't be more thrilled to be running around in leggings and wigs looking for wine goblet and a shrubbery to hand over to the Knights Who Say Ni.
Chris Silk is the arts writer and theater critic for the Naples Daily News. To read the longer version of this review, go to: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/jan/16/review-big-arts-sanibel-monty-python-spamalot/.
Photo Credit: Nick Adams / Nick Adams Photography