Theater review by Jeff Douglas Messer
If you like Monty Python, if you like tongue-in-cheek musical theater, and you like to laugh, Asheville Community Theatre has the show for you. And, it is likely to become the big-hit stage production of the summer. From a pure entertainment standpoint, this has everything you could ask for, and a little bit more.
Spamalot is the Broadway musical adaptation of the legendary Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which has been something of a cult hit for decades. The quirky, irreverent British comedy stylings may not seem a natural fit for American audiences, but the masterminds behind the show lean into — rather than away from — the trappings of traditional musical theater.
ACT’S production is about as good as you could ask for. The scenic design is near-perfect, honoring the classic 2D animation styles of Monty Python’s Flying Circus antics. The costumes are original, while resembling the classic look of the film. The orchestra, led by Daniel Hensley, makes musical merriment throughout — notably in the overture. The comedy tone is obvious from the outset.
Director Jeff Catanese does a great job getting the most out of his talented cast. Catanese could have relied on the fact that much of the dialogue is well-known, and ingrained in pop culture. Instead, he pours his obvious love and enthusiasm for the material into his work.
There’s a lot of high energy work and many cast members play multiple roles. Some of the action is a bit of a head-scratcher as the lead actors popped off and back on in other roles, though it was obviously the same person playing the role. Monty Python did this themselves, but with so many supporting players the ACT production could have used others in some roles.
Standouts among the cast include Rock Eblen (as the somewhat dim-witted King Author), Corey Link (as less-than Brave Sir Robin), Bradshaw Call (as a multitude of key supporting comedy roles), Skyler Goff (as vaguely gay Lancelot, who looks a lot like Barry Gibb among the Village People, in a riotous number), Nana Hosmer (as the supreme Diva Lady of The Lake, who keeps turning up to delight the audience with hilarious show-stopping numbers) and Adam Bowers (as Sir Bevedere and several other key roles). The show is nearly stolen several times by Patsy, the put-upon servant to the King, played with comedic precision by Pat LaCorte (who even tap dances like nobody’s business at one point). Another show stealer is the comedy wizard Strother Stingley as Sir Galahad and the infamous Black Knight (who gets his arms and legs cut off, but refuses to yield).
The audience is a part of the proceedings from the outset, and key to the story by the end as they’re pulled into the comedy chaos. There’s an Oscars selfie parody moment and numerous sly references and winks that include name-dropping Caleb Johnson and Pat McCrory (gaining cheers and boos respectively while doing so.) The show is all-out fun for fans of the Python antics, comedy, musical theater or pure escapist entertainment.
Spamalot runs through Sunday, June 29, at ACT. Performances on Fridays and Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, at 2:30 p.m. $15-$25.