“Spamalot” - A Formidable Show!
The theater productions at the Moorpark College Performing Arts Center have never left me wanting. The amount of talent that the school provides is always impressive. It’s clear that they’re not simply “bringing out their dead,” so to speak. Since the beginning of March, the Moorpark College PAC has been the host of a rowdy band of knights - not days - on a holy quest with which so many of us are familiar.
“Monty Python’s Spamalot” translates the incredibly popular 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail into a stage musical, originally making its debut on Broadway in 2005 and delighting audiences that number in the several-millions. With the book and lyrics by Python Eric Idle, you can count on the recognizable, absurdist sense of humor but fans of the film who have yet to see “Spamalot” will find plenty of new scenes and jokes to enjoy.
One such addition to the story found only in the Broadway show is the Arthurian character known as the Lady of the Lake, who is played in this production to perfection by the very funny and talented Michelle Harris. Harris will be familiar to those who saw Camarillo Skyway Playhouse’s “Into the Woods” last year, for which she won a Four Star Award for her portrayal of Little Red. Here, her vocal talents are shown at full force, as the Lady of the Lake divas her way onto and off of the stage. I only wish her microphone was not having technical difficulties on the night I saw the show. The Lady of the Lake is double-cast with Evelyn Rose.
Brandon Lawrence helms the show as King Arthur, who stumbles his way through gathering his famous knights of the round table, finding his holy quest, and then completing said quest. Lawrence is no stranger to comedic lead roles, and he takes the imaginary reins of this one with smooth, practiced expertise. His timing is perfect - as Python jokes must be - and he more than pulls his weight in the production. His moments of ad libbing - for instance during the audience participation part - hint at his firm grasp of comedy. This role is double-cast with Pi.
Other stand-out performances include Seth Gunawardena as Dennis Galahad, who never misses a moment of comedy. He comes out into the audience aisles during one of the big ensemble numbers, and he was standing right at the end of my row with us, playfully interacting with us and others in-character. Most impressively, he hits the song’s final note, which is a high, tenor note, with seeming ease. We also have Taylor Bass playing Patsy, King Arthur’s partner and friend, who struggles to make the aimless king aware that he’s not, in fact, all alone. Bass is a fun stage presence, though I wish Patsy had more moments to shine in the musical - to be fair, there definitely is more to enjoy than in the original film.
Also worthy of mention is Ian Bowers, who plays Prince Herbert, a young gay man being forced to marry a princess by his disapproving father. Prince Herbert is one of the memorable characters from the film that becomes a somewhat larger character in the musical, and Bowers fills that role and more. He never misses a moment to try and steal the spotlight and hilariously express through the character how he’s feeling in the moment. His number with William Burgos playing Sir Lancelot is very funny and enjoyable, and the two play off of each other well.
Marilyn Anderson’s music direction is well-done. You lose none of the “nonsense” in Idle’s lyrics, even in the ensemble numbers, which is definitely a feat worthy of note. There was a moment in the show where, as I was watching the cast dance, I guessed at the choreography, and was correct in finding that it was Beth MeGill in charge. She did a great job in using the stage and providing some flashy and fun choreography.
Haleh Risdana’s costume design was successful in bringing much of the film’s look to life - or at least properly invoking the memory of the film in her costumes. And Brian Koehler’s scenic design was fun and dynamic, though I’d have hoped for a little bit more of the stage’s real estate for the actors to use.
Under the experienced and informed direction of the excellent John Loprieno, the cast of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” shines, though if thanks to portions of sometimes-obvious buffing. One scene in particular seems to drag on to the point where even the groan-worthy length of Monty Python’s jokes becomes a struggle to bear, but the show does move along at a decent pace and draws copious amounts of laughter from its audience, and it is sure to do the same for you.
In all, Moorpark College's production was very enjoyable, very funny, and full of talent. Definitely go see it while you can. The production runs for one more weekend. See it on Thursday, March 21st, Friday, March 22nd, or Saturday, March 23rd at 8:00pm; or on Sunday, March 24th at 2:00pm. Tickets are available online at https://www.moorparkcollege.edu/pac or through the box office at (805) 378-1485.