Northampton Press

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Theater Review: A sunny, very funny 'Spamalot' at MSMT

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

James Peck is "The Minister Of Silly Laughs" at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre (MSMT).

Peck directs "Monty Python's Spamlot" with liturgical attention to the canon for Python acolytes. The resulting non-stop laughs continue on stage through July 27, Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Whether you're a Pythonite or not, "Spamalot" is hilarious thanks to actors' line delivery timing, orchestra music cues, sound effects, numerous set changes and exciting lighting effects.

The "Spamalot" cast and ensemble deserve kudos for performances that are spot-on, particularly the determined happiness that informs their every facial expression, vocalization and dance step.

"Monty Python's Spamlot" is a pastiche of scenes from the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) movie, reconceived for the stage by the Python's Eric Idle, who wrote the book, songs and music, the latter with John du Prez, for the musical comedy.

The 14 songs (including one reprise) in the first act and 12 songs (including three reprises) in the second act are as silly as the seminal Python's "Minister Of Silly Walks" and imbue the spirit of madcap humor, distracted miscommunication and brilliant wordplay and puns that are the essence of the Python appeal.

There's no sense attempting to encapsulate the nonsense that is the storyline for "Spamalot." There reason enough to celebrate the talent brought together for MSMT.

Ed Bara (King Arthur) has a booming line delivery, wonderful voice ("King Arthur's Song," "Knights Of The Round Table," "I'm All Alone") and great comedic instincts.

Shani Hadjian (The Lady Of The Lake) has a gorgeous voice ("Come With Me") and the ability to vamp, scat and growl to add self-deprecating humor ("Find Your Grail," "The Song That Goes Like This," "The Diva's Lament") to her magnificent stage presence.

Jarrod Yuskauskas (Sir Robin), who is Moravian Academy director of theater, creates a zany physicality backed by a fine voice ("Brave Sir Robin," "You Won't Succeed On Broadway").

Jordan Elman (Patsy) plays the put-upon sidekick to King Arthur to great effect, with nuanced asides and hilarious double-takes, culminating in a show-stopper number ("Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life") that symbolizes the show's cheerfulness.

Standout supporting performers include Steve Bauder (Sir Lancelot), Justin Galletto (Sir Galahad), Joshua Neth (Sir Bedevere) and Josh Shapiro (Prince Herbert, Historian, Not-Dead-Fred).

Contributing to the show's rousing entertainment, in addition to Peck, are music director Justin Brehm, sound designer Thomas A. Korp, dialect designer Troy Dwyer, choreographer Samuel Antonio Reyes, and Vince Di Mura, who conducts the energetic 14-piece orchestra.

Costume designer Nicole Wee created lovely gowns for The Lady Of The Lake and the female ensemble, and silly outfits for the men, plus some great special effects costumes.

Scenic designer Curtis Dretsch has made the set a character all its own, blending faux stone towers, castle walls and a drawbridge with the actual stone and wood of the Baker Theatre.

"Monty Python's Spamalot" is a rollicking good time: a musical of gleeful silliness, exuberant irreverence and blissful optimism. You will exit laughing, feeling all the better for having experienced this show.

"Monty Python's Spamalot," through July 27: 8 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, Baker Theatre, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. muhlenberg.edu/SMT, 484-664-3333