.Canned Theater: ‘Spamalot’ in Novato

It’s been almost 50 years since the antics of the British comedy troupe known as Monty Python’s Flying Circus were unleashed on an unsuspecting Texas audience by a Dallas PBS station.

The BBC-produced series soon found a loyal American audience, and a series of feature films followed.

Python made it to Broadway in 2005 with Monty Python’s Spamalot. Using the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail as his main inspiration, founding member Eric Idle borrowed (or “lovingly ripped off”) additional material from the original series and films and added music by John Du Prez and songs by Idle himself. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical and is currently enjoying a Broadway revival with some updated material.

Locally, the Novato Theater Company has a production running through March 3.

King Arthur (Bruce Vieira) and his patsy, Patsy (Michael Hunter), are wandering the countryside looking for a few good men to join his Knights of the Round Table in Camelot. After disposing of a particularly troublesome plague victim (Kevin Allen), Robin (Nicole Thordsen) and Lancelot (Izaak Heath) agree to join the king. They are soon joined by Galahad (Michael Coury Murdock) and Bedevere (John Griffin).

Having questioned Arthur’s right of leadership, an appearance by the Lady of the Lake (Dani Innocenti Beem) and a directive from God sets them on the quest to find the Holy Grail.

Fans of the film will appreciate low budget, live recreations of such scenes as the taunting by French soldiers, the Knights Who Say “Ni!”, the challenge of the Black Knight, the rescue of a “damsel” in distress and a killer rabbit.

Python humor is an acquired taste. And while some of the humor hasn’t aged well, the cast delivers it with gusto. Vieira’s Arthur is more or less the straight man to the surrounding insanity, but the role could have been played a bit bigger and more regally. Beem hits all the right notes and does the vocal heavy lifting as the Lady/Diva of the Lake. Murdock and Heath are particularly amusing in their roles, but everybody generates some laughs.

Director Larry Williams and choreographer Marilyn Izdebski have a large, very energetic cast running around the theater singing, dancing and enduring an insane number of costume changes (colorful costuming by Tracy Bell Redig). This may have been the hardest working (and certainly most mobile) ensemble I’ve seen in a while.

Spamalot is a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of show.

(Spam)a lot of it sticks.

’Spamalot’ runs through March 3 at the Novato Theater Company, 5420 Nave Dr., Ste. C, Novato. Fri & Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $25–$35. 415.883.4498. novatotheatercompany.org.


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