By: Joseph Szalinski
King Arthur (Michael L. Marra) is combing Zelien…err…England in search of knights for his round table in everyone’s favorite medieval musical, Spamalot, the brainchild of Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Much like Twinkies, this show has been brought back by popular demand, returning to The Strand Theatre, with this particular production being directed by Nick Navari.
Audiences are treated to a wonderful iteration of the Broadway hit thanks to a fantastic cast and crew. Most of the enormous cast effortlessly pulls double or triple duty with the variety of characters they portray, delivering incredible performances in both their more significant appearances and their briefer ones. The Laker Girls and the members of the ensemble offer great assistance in fleshing out songs and scenes, helping the imagined world seem as big as it needs to regardless of the physical limitations of the space.
Michael L. Marra and Anna Stewart, who play King Arthur and Lady of the Lake, respectively, are phenomenal in their singular roles as the leads, despite the latter’s lamentation that she is ignored by a portion of the play’s story, resulting in a hilarious number, “Whatever Happened to My Part?”
As far as musical numbers go, all are really well done, and they are expertly overseen by music director, Amy Kapp, brilliantly choreographed by Victoria Strnisa, and wonderfully scored by The Strand Theatre Ensemble. Act 2 contains the bulk of the standouts, with “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” and “His Name is Lancelot” being some of the most memorable moments of the show overall.
The only performance-related qualms I had were very minimal and were easily ignored; a handful of wavered accents and a few instances where someone’s projection was a bit subdued by reliance on a mic that didn’t always capture everything super clearly. Otherwise, everyone did an impressive job, and it’s easy to see how they all are already so accomplished and will continue to grow in that regard.
Set design, lighting, costuming, and all other technical elements are tremendous as well, especially the projections that help transport the action to a very expensive forest. There is a lot to do with the static castle set, whether that be the various entrances and exits that pepper the ground level, climbing the stairs, or relegating it to the background while a scene unfolds upstage. The utilization of the second level of the theatre is also well thought out.
Costuming really elevates this show. Not only does it help the performers fully realize their characters, but it is also done in such a way that the transitioning between them can be accomplished with ease. Where the costuming really stands out, though, is with the effects. The short legs of a taunting guard, the beheading by a hungry bunny, and the knight’s flesh wounds are marvelously orchestrated.
While I was familiar with Monty Python’s work prior to seeing this phenomenal production, I was a stranger to Spamalot itself. I’m thrilled that this was my introduction to it. Fingers crossed that there is yet another revival in a few months so I can see this again!
Spamalot will continue its run June 29th & 30th and July 1st & 2nd at The Strand Theater in Zelienople, PA. For more information and tickets, click here.