TR Robertson -It’s witty, clever, zany, award-winning, and an absolutely drop-dead hilarious musical. That “It” is “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, currently on The Welk Theatre Stage in Escondido. This musical is hard to describe because it is so unusual, but one you should see again and again because the wit and humor is so fast paced you will miss something because you will be laughing at what you just heard and miss what comes next. An opening night sold-out theatre laughed, clapped and even sang along to many of the songs all evening long, ending with a standing ovation and a sing-along at the end to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. Artistic Director Larry Raben began the evening welcoming all those in attendance and saying “Spamalot” was originally planned for The Welk in 2020, but a pandemic ended that opening. He enthusiastically said they are so excited to be able to finally bring the show to the stage with this tremendous cast. Tremendous they were, many of the performers playing multiple roles in the musical.
Photos by Karli Cadel
The advertisement for the musical says, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” – a new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. The movie, a parody of the Arthurian legend, was released in 1975 and over the years, much like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, has somewhat of a cult following. Many people in the audiences could quote lines from the movie and many in The Welk could also quote lines from the musical. The musical is taken from the book and lyrics of Eric Idle with music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. It is also from the original screenplay by the British comedy troupe “Monty Python” – Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. There was a plan several years ago to do a remake of the movie but had to be signed off on by the surviving members of the troupe and several of the members refused to sign off.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in 2005. It would run for 1,575 performances and receive 14 Tony nominations in 2005, winning Best Musical, Best Director and Best Performance by a Featured Actress (Sara Ramirez). Tim Curry, from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” movie fame, starred in the original Broadway production. The musical also won 3 Drama Desk Awards for Best Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, and Outstanding Costume Design. It would also win the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
The Welk production of the musical, under the direction of Noelle Marion, who recently directed the popular musical “Nunsense” at The Welk, has put together a cast that could not have been better selected for this musical. Lance Arthur Smith plays with perfection the “Grail” obsessed medieval king who bumbles and stumbles from one misadventure to another. Smith’s wonderful baritone voice is shown in numerous songs in the musical and he even throws in a little tap dancing in a couple of them. Playing The Lady of the Lake is Craig Noel Award Nominee Janaya Mahealani Jones. Her presentation of The Lady was stunning. She has an incredible, booming, beautiful voice she features in “Come With Me”, “The Song That Goes Like This” and an audience favorite, “The Diva’s Lament”. One performer on stage almost as much as King Arthur is Enrique Duenas who plays Patsy, Arthur’s squire, servant, confidant, coconut clopping horse and in an almost sad, yet funny, song, “I’m All Alone” sung by Arthur, almost invisible to Arthur.
The Knights of the Round Table each had a number of funny moments on stage, both singing and with their interactions with one another and with the strange and unusual events happening around them. Patrick Cummings plays the Homicidally Brave Sir Lancelot. Geno Carr plays The Not Quite So Brave as Sir Lancelot Sir Robin. The Dashingly Handsome Sir Galahad is played by Jason Webb. The Strangely Flatulent Sir Bedevere is played by Melissa Fernandes and Sir Not Appearing in this Show is one of the members of the Ensemble. Zane Camacho begins the musical as the Historian, introducing the audience to the story they will be seeing and appearing several other times. Camacho also is hilarious as Prince Herbert, a Prince who pretends to be a damsel in distress to be rescued by a knight. When Lancelot arrives to rescue her/him, things will take a very funny twist on stage. You’ll have to see the musical to see what happens.
The Ensemble for the musical consists of Doug Penikas, Alyssa Anne Austin, Sarah Morgan, Beatrice Crosbie, Shelby Monson and Ashley Chavarria. Each of these performers in the musical, with the exception of King Arthur and The Lady of the Lake, also play various other members of the musical, such as the Knights of Ni!, the Laker Girls, The Black Knight, Not Dead Fred, Tim the Enchanter, French Taunters, Concorde, the King of Swamp Castle, Minstrels, the Killer Rabbit of Caerbanng, and even God. The costume changes must be wild backstage.
At one fun point in the musical, each night, a person from the audience is chosen as the Best Peasant in Escondido, it has something to do with the search for The Grail. For this night the young lady selected was brought on stage and asked her name and she responded Jezebel Chrysanthemum, probably her name for that evening and giving King Arthur another chance for a joke. You never know what may happen in “Spamalot”.
This musical is outrageous, immensely entertaining and side splitting funny. Wait till you hear what Robin sings in “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” as to what is necessary to have a successful musical on Broadway. “Monty Python’s Spamalot” will appear on The Welk Stage until October 24th. It runs on Saturdays at 1 pm and 7 pm and on Sundays at 1 pm. Tickets are $62 and can be purchased at 760-749-3448 or toll free at 1-888-802-7469. Online go to www.TICKETS.WELKSANDIEGO.COM .Group reservations of 15 or more can be made by calling 760-749.3182, ext. 22154.