Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Critic
Sir Galahad: The grail is a cup.
Sir Robin: God the almighty and all-knowing has misplaced a cup?
Thomaston, CT - ‘Monty Python’s SPAMALOT’ is billed as “a new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ That original screenplay has quite a pedigree, including Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. The book and lyrics were written by Mr. Idle and with music by John Du Prez and Mr. Idle. So one knows that this show will definitely not be high drama, or a shortened version of the musical ‘Camelot.’ Oh no, SPAMALOT is a most irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend with British humor of the highest (Ex) caliber, and the production of this wonderfully fun musical put together by Landmark Community Theater at the Thomaston Opera House is so hysterically funny that the entire opening night audience laughed their way through the two hours.
The high comedy is no doubt mostly due to the eye of director/choreographer Foster Evans Reese. Mr. Reese has assembled a fabulous group of talented (and funny) community theatre actors and he requires them to work very hard, changing costumes and characters, singing and dancing, and generally delighting the audience in every scene. The jokes are broad, they come fast and furious and the Thomaston audience loved every minute of it. I don’t think I have ever watch the entire film, yet I don’t think I missed many of the references. On their search for the Holy Grail, the knights encounter strange place, even stranger characters, showgirls, cows, killer rabbits and Finnish and French people. Python fans won’t want to miss this production.
Veteran actor Mensah Robinson leads the cast in the role of King Arthur; he played the comedy perfectly and wowed us when he got to sing. The only other performer who played just one character was Ashley Mcleod (in a dream role) as the beautiful Lady of the Lake; this long-time Monty Python fan gave a powerhouse performance throughout a slew of costume changes. Joe Guttadauro made his LCT debut as the king’s Patsy and will be appearing in ‘First Date’ in Goshen coming up in March.
Bob Lussier was a standout as the blonde Sir Galahad, Dennis the peasant, Prince Herbert’s stern dad and the Black Knight; we could recognize that deep voice no matter the role. The family of Jonathan Ross sat near me and they enjoyed his performance as Sir Lancelot, Sentry 2, Knight of Ni and especially French Taunter just as much as I did. Matt Cornish nearly brought down the house as Sir Robin, as well as the first Sentry and Guard; Mr. Cornish will likely be taking a hiatus from the stage when his first child arrives in the near future.
Rob Thornton did very well as the bumbling Sir Belvedere, Not Dead Fred and a Monk. John Mullen played six male and female roles and I loved seeing the inimitable Pat Hearn as Tim and other silly characters. Steve Sorriero was back on this stage and was memorable as Brother Maynard, while Phillip “Zap” Zaprzalka returned to the stage as a whopping seven characters. Dustin Bingham, Robert Saunders, and London-born Humphry Rolleston as the Narrator and God round out the male ensemble.
Eighteen year old Joshua Viltrakis (‘The Happy Elf’) was as good as ever in the role of Prince Herbert and in the ensemble. His big personality makes any role a memorable and this young actor is such a joy to watch in whatever role he steps into.
Yes, there are some ladies in this piece and they too are kept very busy. Laureen Monge, Jen Colella, Patti Paganucci, Kelsey Morris and her mother Kerri Morris, Leslie Bacon, Allison VanDerlyn (a last minute replacement) and Karen Robinson (Mensah’s lovely wife) charmed the audience as they sang and danced as ladies of Finland (“oooohhh,”) Laker Girls, Showgirls, French citizens, minstrels and casino maids. Don’t miss the willowy Kelsey as a certain Belle in France.
Let’s talk about the orchestra that sat backstage. The superb TJ Thompson served as music director and got many a shout-out during the proceedings. (I’ll admit that I laughed every time.) Along with Mr. Thompson on keyboard, James Allen played drums, Shannon Copeland covered the reeds, Jean Connor and Jennifer Jeon were on violin, Scott Friend played trumpet, Michael Louchen was on the bass and Scott Minnerly played trombone. It sounded like more, and speaking of sound, recent upgrades to the sound system were evident and a big improvement.
Dan Checovetes worked his magic with the lighting design. The castle scenery designed by Alex Dunn and Keith Winegar and painted by costume designer Ed Bassett worked well. Mr. Bassett once again outdid himself with this huge wardrobe of colorful outfits. I have never seen so many costume changes for the Lady of the Lake and even included a breakaway suit of armor in the casino scene. The cheeky ensemble characters at the French castle did not go unnoticed and the numerous wigs were cute and effective. There were a few opening night costume mishaps, and Mr. Robinson got the biggest laugh when he improvised a line to cover a big one.
I appreciated that the super-fun audience participant scene was kept in. It was obvious that every single performer was having a wonderful time on the Opera House stage and the audience was right there with them. The young boys in my row got every joke and were never bored; after the curtain call they called it the best show ever. The entire audience was on their feet cheering when it (unfortunately) had to end.
At the opening night of the first show of the Landmark season, the production team of the upcoming ‘Hairspray’ was up in the balcony. Broadway’s Melissa Follo Perry will direct her signature piece and CJ Barber (‘The Happy Elf’) will star as the one and only Tracy Turnblad. Thanks also to Pam Monahan for coming with me to opening night.
This hysterically funny and colorful version of ‘SPAMALOT’ runs Feb. 3, 4, 10, 11 at 8PM, Feb. 5, 12 at 2PM at the historic Thomaston Opera House Main Stage. It is definitely worth the trip to Thomaston for the nonstop laughter to get away from reality for just a while...here...in...SPAM - A - LOT.
Photo by Patti Rice
Nancy Sasso Janis (@nancysjanis417) is one of the newest members of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to Patch.com. Check out her Facebook page Connecticut Theater Previews.