Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: (Vancouver / Theatre) Spamalot

(photo by David Cooper)
Mixing a classic farce with Broadway makes quite a spectacle
A mixed bag of hilarious sketches and dated humour
by Chris Lane

Spamalot is completely ridiculous, over-the-top and makes very little sense, but fortunately, that’s the whole point.

The musical is based off Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with some other Python references and Broadway spoofing thrown in. It’s a glammed-up, Broadway-style farce, full of British wit.

There are many, many laughs in the show, although a lot of the jokes drag on longer than they should. The comedy relies on a lot of easy jokes, often dependent on stereotypes that toe the line between funny or just plain offensive – sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other. But each scene is vastly different from the next, so the occasional disappointing scenes are often saved by hilarious antics moments later. The energy level is high throughout the evening; it’s a true spectacle.

Fortunately, the production value is very high, which rescues a few scenes from jokes that aren’t quite as funny as when we first heard them. The set by Marshall McMahen is stellar – the stage is framed with castle towers and whimsical clouds, and every part of the set has a distinctly fairy-tale feel. The huge set pieces and props were far from subtle, which added to the over-the-top, pantomime-like flair of the show. The costumes, coordinated by Rebekka Sørensen-Kjelstrup, were always on point, from the glitzy to the cartoonish. 

The show has a strong cast, with some excellent standouts. Andrew Cownden earned the loudest cheer from the audience for his charming portrayal of Patsy, King Arthur’s underappreciated right hand man (and sometimes horse). Cameron Dunster stood out from the ensemble for his energetic physical comedy and facial expressions that were hard not to laugh at. Terra C. MacLeod is every bit the diva in her turn as the Lady of the Lake, with a Broadway-calibre voice and wonderfully campy melodrama. Josh Epstein is quite the showman as Sir Robin, and would make the Python crew proud with his hilarious French Taunter. David Marr is solid in the lead role of King Arthur, but often gets upstaged by better comedians and singers alongside him. 

Spamalot isn’t the most ground-breaking choice for the Arts Club, and does seem a bit dated, but they certainly give it the production value it deserves to please Python fans, with spirited performances from the talented cast, polished choreography and striking design.

May 8 - June 29
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission

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