‘Spamalot’ was rollicking.
Fans of Monty Python were primed, ready to go on an epic adventure for the ‘Holy Grail’ with Paterson Production’s inaugural musical, ‘Spamalot’ which opened at Brisbane’s Twelfth Night theatre in Bowen Hills last week.
The original musical ‘Spamalot’, by Eric Idle, opened on Broadway in 2005 to rave reviews. The show was nominated for fourteen Tony awards and won in three categories. The musical follows the story from the 1975 Monty Python film, “The Holy Grail” but includes references to other Monty Python works as well. The musical, like the film, is a satirical take on the legend of King Arthur and is completely zany in nature, with flying cows, killer rabbits, ridiculous French accents and singing half-dead people.
Leading the cast was Patrick Oxley in the role of King Arthur. Oxley managed to use the pompous regal tone of the King, exaggerated gestures and confidence to create a very entertaining character. His rendition of “I’m all alone” with David McLaughlin as Patsy, was hilarious. In the opening scene, Patsy’s entrance ignited audience applause before he even uttered a line due to the sheer love the audience has for this iconic character they adore from the film– and McLaughlin didn’t disappoint. The mimicry of Arthur’s moves and his lively facial expressions, blacked out tooth and excellent timing, had the audience in constant stitches of laughter.
Jessica Papst starred in the role of the Lady of the Lake and was flawless in her delivery. Papst nailed the difficult songs like a true professional, adding her own flair and vocal gymnastics. Her comical delivery and multiple outrageous wigs kept the audience hooked on her every move.
Rounding out the main cast were King Arthur’s Knights, which consisted of Jake Lyle as Galahad, James Lennox as Sir Lancelot, Sam Caruana as Sir Robin and Joan Camuglia-May as Sir Bedevere. These performers added many humorous moments and worked incredibly tight as an ensemble. Their harmonious singing and comic timing ensured there was never a dull moment. Caruana’s delivery of the bible reading was comedy gold.
Often in an ensemble, one or two cast members stand out because of their extra flair. Not so in this production, as every cast member matched the dynamic energy of each other to create a super powerful force. In the big numbers, such as the end of Act One song, “Run Away”, every person on stage was doing something equally crazy and interesting, to fully realise the absurdist style of the show. The tightness of the cast was an absolute credit to the performers and the director.
A real highlight of the show was the “His Name is Lancelot” number which featured Lennox’s transformation into a pair of sparkly rainbow shorts as the stage exploded with movement. The song was led by Christopher Batkin who ate up the role as Herbet. The cast had so much fun in this number, with the male ensemble embracing their flamboyant outfits and the spicy choreo. If watching Luke Woodrow in a shiny pink unitard, flashing his enormous smile doesn’t fill you with joy, then your heart must be made of stone. It was pure glee personified.
The dancing in this production overall was exceptional. Maureen Bowra’s highly energetic routines were delivered with spectacular flair by the cast, particularly the six laker girls. Far from being an addition to the production, the dancers were integral and featured in number after number to bring out the humour and dazzle in the show. From tapping on tables in “Knights of the Round Table” (a tap break choreographed by Cerys Downing) to partner dancing and lifts, the dancers delivered with impressive, unwavering energy. Bowra utilised all areas of the space and gave the audience multiple tableaus that were visually appealing. The clever creation of the ‘Star of David’ in “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”, added to the dramatic action of the song and was the icing on the cake.
The music of this show is superb, and the orchestra handled the various styles with ease. Julie Whiting is an absolute treasure to the Brisbane theatre community and when you see her at the front of the orchestra pit, you know you are in for a treat. The orchestra were simply brilliant with a special shout out to the remarkable trumpeters who almost stole the show in certain numbers. A special mention must go out to the percussionists whose excellent playing made the audience tap their toes along to the jazzy rhythms in the score.
Vocally, the cast performed almost flawlessly, with crisp harmonies and vocal dynamics. The Laker Girls’ song was a particular vocal delight. It was impressive that the Laker Girls could manage such vocal clarity and diction and maintain Bowra’s highly energetic choreography throughout.
With spectacular choreography, stunning musical direction, and superb comedic acting, it would be remiss of me to not mention the director and producer behind it all. Shaun McCallum gave the audience everything they were expecting in a Monty Python musical and more with clearly crafted characters, larger than life movement and over-the-top comedy. ‘Spamalot’ is Samantha Paterson’s first musical production after years working in the ‘Lynch and Paterson’ duo. If ‘Spamalot’ is the new yardstick, then the future of Paterson Productions is bigger than a giant wooden rabbit and sparklier than Lancelot’s shorts. Monty Python fans should not miss this excellent production. It’s a 10/10 from me.
‘Spamalot’ performs until Sunday 26th November at The Twelfth Night Theatre in Bowen Hills. For more information visit their website.