Guest blogger Jacob Matsumiya attended Tuesday's opening night of Monty Python's Spamalot. Read Jacob's "freeform riff" of a review below to learn his thoughts on the show, which plays here through October 18. Tell us if you agree with Jacob or not.
The Orange County Performing Arts Center kicked off its 23rd season last night with the touring production of Monty Python’s Spamalot. I am not sure if it is due to the fact that I was raised on the comedy of Monty Python or if a love of spam is in my blood based on my Hawaiian heritage, but I found this musical thoroughly enjoyable. In honor of this irreverent production I have decided to forgo the normal structure of my blog in favor of a more freeform riff on all things Spamalot.
S is for Special Effects. From legless knights to rocket-powered limbs of God, Spamalot is packed with acts of theatrical magic. It does not rely on them however, but instead uses them tongue-in-cheekily as a knowing wink to the theater-going audience. Also starting with the letter “S” and worth mentioning are the colorful and enchanting sets. Spamalot seems to spare no expense in the sets department and I was really happy to see a full-scale touring production complete with its own custom deck or stage floor. Something about not having to watch cleverly staged ensemble members stealthy move set pieces on and off stage makes the theater nerd in me very, very happy. And for my fellow theater nerds out there, I have to share that the production utilizes 35 line sets, 30 chain motors, 13,000 lbs. of stage weight, 25 crew members, 6 tanks of liquid carbon dioxide and 8 fire extinguishers a week, and 6 lbs of confetti per performance to create the magical world of the Britons.
P is for Plot. Or really a lack there of. If you find yourself walking out of the theater saying, “I’m not exactly sure what just happened, but it sure was hilarious,” then I think the creative team did their jobs. Spamalot doesn’t attempt to be anything it’s not and I say thank the Lord for that.
A is for Absurd. Enough said.
M is for Merle and Matthew. As the riffing diva, the Lady of the Lake, Merle Dandridge turns in a superb performance of epic proportions. She does her best to blow the roof off Segerstrom Hall with her coloratura runs, vocal acrobatics, and multi register belting. Not to be outdone, Matthew Greer in his various roles, notably Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, Knight of Ni, and Tim the Enchanter, hands down steals the show. Taking on these iconic roles from this cult classic is no small feat, but trust me Mr. Greer does not disappoint. He too attempts to bring the house down, but unlike Ms. Dandridge, he does so by making the audience quake with laughter. One of the funniest parts of the evening was what appeared to be an improvised joke by Mr. Greer that sent not only the audience in to a collective belly laugh, but also the others actors on stage as well. Priceless.
A is for Asinine. I say this with all due respect and love, but the comedy of Monty Python is completely silly, stupid, and idiotic. And yet it was performed with such earnestness by the creators then and by the cast now that it is nothing but pure comedic genius. And yet when ones digs deeper, you start to discover the jokes are more than they appear. They are actually satirical jabs at history, popular culture, and modern life. So really, A isn’t for Asinine, it’s for Astute.
L is for Last Chance. This touring production of Spamalot has been on the road since early 2006 and OCPAC serves as the final stop on this tour. So basically, this is your last chance to see Spamalot for anytime in the foreseeable future. So in other words, “what are you waiting for?”
O is for Original. Ignoring the fact that this show is “lovingly” ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot is an incredibly original production unlike any other show you have or are likely to see. Of the screen to stage transfers that have become so popular of late, Spamalot is by far the best. With love in their hearts, the creative team set out not to simply put the film on stage, but to turn the film in to an actual musical comedy worthy of being staged in the first place. And based on some recent shows, that in and of itself appears to be another original idea all together.
T is for Tony Awards. Spamalot is the winner of the 2005 Tony® Awards for Best Musical. So if I haven’t given you enough reason to see it already and you happen to be some sort of theatre elitist then perhaps this accolade will be enough to get you to see this show. Believe me, your funny bone will be glad you did.
Finally, with Spamalot opening a new season at the Center, I just wanted to express my anticipation for this upcoming Broadway Series. Four of my all-time favorite musicals, Spring Awakening, Rent, Hairspray and In the Heights, will be making their way to the Center over the course of this year. I am also highly anticipating the new production of the iconic musical Dreamgirls. Sure-fire crowd pleasers Young Frankenstein and The Lion King will also be making tour stops. So really, this is bound to be one of the Center’s most hit-filled seasons in years. For what it’s worth, I highly encourage everyone to go out and get a subscription. I personally guarantee you will not regret it.