I have never been a fan of Spam. I did love the acronym that was used when I was younger: Some Parts Are Meat. I don’t know if people still use the joke.
Unlike spam, Spamalot is not merely an entertainment byproduct. Oh no, sirree!
When this show premiered, I didn’t quite know how I felt about it. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the recording though. I’ve listened to the cast recording of Spamalot a few times, but it wasn’t something that I felt I would give repeated spins to, with the exception of “The Diva’s Lament” and “Knights of the Round Table/Songs That Go Like This” Reprise. I love the source material, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But the songs for me at that time seemed overly simple. But then I watched the show… WOW!
Last Sunday afternoon, the munster and I sat in the front row (those poor actors! [I’ll explain in a sec]) excited and yet slightly hesitant about what I was going to see.
As we are waiting, I scan the stage. The challenge with this space is that it isn’t a large stage and it has no proscenium. The set consisted of two grey towers on each side and a long wall across the back of the stage with a set of double doors in the center. Creating a single set design with enough wiggle room for several specific locales is a mind boggling bit of work that I always appreciate, so when Prince Herbert is revealed I was so giddy! I don’t wanna ruin anything for you so that is all I will say. As simple looking as the set looks, it works wonderfully for this afternoon of magic. Kudos to designer Ron Gasparinetti!
In other technical news: I liked most of the costumes, but I was hoping for just a little sparkle on the “Laker” Girls outfits. Okay, a lot more. Just to go with all that energy they had. Other than that, everyone looked great. The number “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” looked outstanding! My favorite costume moment, however, was the Lady of the Lake’s finale dress! I was totally caught off guard with that. And hearing the gasps from the audience, I wasn’t the only one.
One of the hardest but my FAVORITE parts of a show, in my humble opinion, is the choreography. In past musicals that I have seen here, the choreography was okay. It didn’t make me want to “borrow” any moves or give me any inspiration. It was just kind of there. This is totally a “me” thing. That being said, Jennifer Gorgulho’s work is brilliant! She had a hell of a task, too, with all the musical styles that this show touches on. It made me want to dance, and I was smiling from ear to ear right from the get-go with the “Fisch Schlapping Song”. Ms. Gorgulgo, I am a fan!! I cannot wait to see what you work on next.
The tricky thing about this production was that it used prerecorded music. I have no problem with that. I do think that this is a double edged sword though. As an dancer (I use that term very loosely), I find it comforting to know that the song will always be the same. As an actor though, I think that keeping it “live”ly becomes a challenge because the the song will always be the same. That didn’t seem to be a problem for this cast though. They performed the heck out of each number and as testament, I have had the cast recording on repeat in my car since. The only non-positive mention I have about the music/sound is that the cast isn’t mic’d so on a few occasions the music drowns out the soloist. On the flip side of that though, the music doesn’t quite swell to that full orchestral sound on some of the songs that you would expect to get. Again, I stress this is a super small issue.
Under the direction of Jeffrey Bracco, this show moves so smoothly that you get to the intermission before your sides stop hurting from laughing so much. The jokes all “landed” and I swear I was annoying the lady next to me because I was a friggin hyena! I was literally crying/laughing. And yes, I used the word literally the correct way. I felt bad that the cast had to hear me cackling the entire show, but jeezuz it was just SO funny. Then again, it is Monty Python! This cast must have had a blast at rehearsals.
Speaking of, the cast was joyful and energetic and spot on! Their enjoyment was infectious and made me a little envious. My negative comment here has nothing to do with the cast but the program design because there are no images for the cast, so I can’t point out the ensemble people that I couldn’t stop watching. Boo. But to the female ensemble member that gets her stick taken away from the Diva, YOU ARE DIVINE!!! Your reactions were perfect and your dancing was no joke! Loved watching you. The two tapping gents on the box in the casino number, kudos!! Now, while the cast was fabulous, I HAVE to tell you that there are some brilliant performances here. Nick Manfredi does triple duty as Sir Robin, Guard, and Maynard while Mackenszie Drae steals the show with his Sir Lancelot, Guard, French Taunter, Ni, and Tim (which slayed me when he says “Below me is a cave…”). Their characters were not only so rich but they all had slightly differing accents. Staying in the moment with all that and quick witty dialogue is remarkable. However, Josiah Frampton as Patsy, James Snell as Sir Galahad (which has my favorite scene regarding the crowning of a king by a lady in a lake) and Black Knight (second favorite scene) and Ryan Mardesich as Historian, Not-Dead Fred, Minstrel and Prince Herbert also give incredibly wonderful performances. Leading these knights is the great Ken Boswell. It is hard to be the strong leader with so many funny scene stealing characters around but he does a fantastic job.
Do yourself a big favor, go to this site and order your tickets right now! Click the green box under the company name. I swear it is ready to sell out! I will probably go and see it again, it was just that good!
City Lights Theatre Company is in downtown San Jose on 2nd Street. No seat is a bad seat, trust me! Order your tickets NOW!!!