Yes, yes, of course you’ve seen the irreverent film Monty Python and the Holy Grail and you probably know that the musical, Spamalot is it – lovingly ripped off by Eric Idle to go on stage. It ran on Broadway in 2005 for 1500 performances, winning Best Musical and other juicy accolades and has been on stage somewhere each year ever since. It is the mighty good fortune of Adelaidians and all those who can get to the Arts Theatre that the Marie Clark Musical Theatre is performing this very funny show as we speak. Take my advice and get there by whatever means you can because, believe me, you will regret it to your dying day if you don’t. People will say to you, “Did you see Spamalot at the Arts Theatre?” and if you shamefully say, “No” they will hold you with a glittering eye like the Ancient Mariner and not let you go until you’ve heard how super it was. It is beautifully staged, excellently sung, superbly supported by a first class orchestra and so much fun, you will want to see it again. The cast must have had a wonderful time rehearsing this musical and their enjoyment of it is apparent in this fine performance. It is very ably directed by Brian Godfrey with Musical Director Ben Stefanoff. The support crew must have worked their medieval hosen off to give the cast such a fine foundation for their talent to shine.
A couple of moans first. The Spanish Inquisition Band is remarkably good, except that the historian talking at the beginning could not be heard at times, project how well he might, because the orchestra drowned him out and it was too loud on other occasions too. When there is one singer and over 20 instrumentalists, it’s an uneven contest and Ben Stefanoff needs to tone it down a bit. The other is also to do with music. Don’t think that everyone leaves the auditorium at interval. For those who stayed, the recorded music that was played was so repetitive and went on and on repeating itself for so long that it was hard going to sit there and read the good programme (Ben Stefanoff) without feeling like the French Taunter and ... blowing a raspberry.
The story is ... er, complicated. The Historian (Damien Quick) sets the scene in 932 AD plague-ridden England. Pity that somebody thought he said “Finland” because it’s the cue for the Fisch Schlapping Dance, somewhat like Morris Dancing, with fish, with which the men playfully slap the girls’ faces. Fed up when told of their mistake, the Ensemble flounce off, so the historian quickly introduces suffering England’s saviour, Arthur, King of the Britons, (Michael Butler) who literally gallops on stage with Patsy, (Ben Todd) his Don Quixote-like Squire (unfortunately pictured in the programme as Pasty). Without the benefit of a horse, the mighty King has to make do with Patsy galloping along behind him with two coconut shells. The King’s got a spiffing idea and that is to gallop around and try to enlist likely young men to join him at Camelot and become Knights of the Round Table so that they can go out and do noble deeds and set a good example to the proletariat. Simple, really. Then he’s told by God (pre-recorded, no credits) that all he has to do is to find the Holy Grail, an old drinking cup, and everything will be hunky dory. But as we are told, even for a King on a fake horse, life can get really rotten, and what you have to do is to “Always look on the bright side of life,” the hit song of the show. And really rotten it can be with erudite underlings who don’t believe in Excalibur. (Honestly!) Mind you, the Lady of the Lake (Casmira Hambledon) is real enough and she’s an absolute stunner especially in her plastic outfit and she sings powerfully too. There are Monks who rhythmically bash their head with books, the ‘Bring out your dead” blokes being asked “Can you hang around a bit?” for Fred, the Not-Dead-Yet (Damien Quick) – “He won’t be long.” There are cheer squads and tap dancing to brighten your heart, a nun and a monk like bobby-soxers and somehow something sounds like Satchmo. Arthur and the Knights he has garnered travel the world but the brave King keeps smiling through until he encounters the French when he does get a little cross. Well, they are Gaelicly rude and tell whoppers such as that they have the Grail. “If you do not show us the Grail, we shall take this castle by force” says the King bravely. “If you do not cease to taunt us we shall be forced to bring out our secret weapon.” Strong words, you’ll agree and, true to his word, the wooden rabbit as devised by the Sir Bedevere is produced with a little input from a very good fake Marcel Marceau (Shane Huang). Of course there are the devilish Knights of Ni to come, the oh-so-courageous chopped up Black Knight (Sebastian Cooper) and the confession of Patsy and his killing answer as to why it was a secret and so much more. And do they find the Holy Grail? Don’t suffer another moment. Book yourself and your loved ones tickets to see this show before it closes.
The acting in this show is very, very good and this applies to everyone, most with multiple roles and that includes the ensemble whose quick-change artistry is enviable. Venerable bashed monks become fish faced Finnish to Can-Can girls and so on with astonishing and smooth rapidity
The costuming alone is a vast undertaking and Costume Coordinator, Narelle Lee, and her assistants are to be heartily congratulated. The choreographers Rachel Dow and Rebekah Stonelaitken have done a terrific job and the dancing standard is high throughout. Lighting is varied and complicated and Rodney Bates and his team keep cast and set interestingly lit as it goes through from Go to coconut shell “Whoa.“ Stage management (Clare Guerin), set design and construction was a whole company effort under Ben Stefanoff, Shay Stonelaitken and Geoff Day and greatly to their credit. The Knights, Robin (Buddy Dawson), Galahad (Sebastian Cooper), Lancelot (Jamie Wright), Bedevere (Chris Bierton) and the endearing Patsy are delightful characters excellently portrayed, as are the other characters they play. The Marie Clark Musical Theatre describes itself as “a progressive non-professional theatre company that strives to nurture young talent and produce high quality musicals.” Congratulations to them for living up to their laudable aim and for giving so much pleasure to the theatre-going public into the bargain.
Marie Clark Musical Theatre presents
book and lyrics Eric Idle | music John Du Prez & Eric Idle
Director Brian Godfrey
Venue: Arts Theatre | Angas Street, Adelaide SA
Dates: 25 May – 02 June 2018
Tickets: $26 – $33.70