Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Spamalot

(photo by Seanna Kennedy)
A Frolicking Goodtime
by Max Gorokhovski

Spamalot is the adaptation of Monty Python's The Holy Grail, if you have never seen it, you definitely should. The Lower Ossington Theatre's interpretation has you fully engulfed in carefree merriment, the next minute you will be back in your seat fully aware that you are watching a play as the folding chair cuts blood flow to your leg. This is because while the troupe is extremely comfortable with the song and dance numbers, they make the dialogue seem like more of a burden.

The first credit must be given to Michele Shuster, her choreography brings energy and jubilance to the entire affair. Whenever the scene breaks out into a musical number the theatre comes alive. It draws the crowd into the play and makes one feel as if they are part of the show. Heck, even when the cast has an onstage hiccup during these performances it only adds to the fun. The only issue with the musical numbers is that they are distributed unevenly, with the second act getting the vastly superior numbers. It is not that the first act has any bad musical numbers but rather that it feels a bit dry when your most lively and exotic numbers are in the final half. These two musical numbers are, You Won't Succeed in Broadway and His Name is Lancelot. They are worth the price of admission alone if you enjoy musical theatre.

The other noteworthy aspect of the show is the set design. It reminded this reviewer of a low budget Terry Gilliam. The shapes and dimensions of the set aren't quite right and the set itself does not always cooperate with the actors but that is okay. It is absurd and very appropriate to the material.

Sadly the dancing ends, you are shot back into your seat and become painfully aware that you are watching a play while you sit on folded chairs with cushions. It is not that any of the performances are bad, they simply feel misplaced. Frankly, they seem like more of an afterthought, an interlude to the musical numbers. At times you feel as though the cast feels it too, speeding through the dialogue so that they can go back to their strength: dancing and singing.  This unevenness of performances is most vividly seen with Jason Gray, King Arthur, as he has the most dialogue-heavy role.

Though this is not to say that there aren't some really solid performances. Emma Ferrante and Evan Dowling steal the show as the Lady of the Lake and Patsy. Ferrante is fabulous as the Lady of the Lake: a divine diva who is larger than life (think Cher with direction from John Waters). Her performance keeps your eyes peeled to her every moment she is on stage. Dowling though is the one who steals the show any time a scene requires him to speak.

At the end of the evening I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the show was. The musical numbers were terrific and really brought the house into a fervour. Even with the snags you will wonder where the time went. 

June 20 - Aug. 3

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