By Ron James
There are a whole lot of San Diegans feeling pretty good today, and I’d bet many are humming or whistling Eric Idle‘s now famous ditty “Always look on the Bright Side of Life.” These folks were at the Civic Theater Tuesday night, having the Broadway time-of-their-life laughing, smiling and singing through “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
I was among them for the opening night of this touring show, playing through September 13. The production is the best Monty Python entertainment effort ever – including movies and television shows. And I’m not the only one who thinks so; the original Broadway production was honored with three Tony Awards including “Best Musical” and “Best Director.”
It’s rare when everything clicks in a musical. But last night’s Spamalot “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” proved virtually flawless in every aspect. The set design, costumes, lighting, orchestra, music, sound, dancing, and acting added up to be the holy grail of musical comedies.
Before the curtain I feared that the show would be a rehash of skits or a watered down version of the movie, Although there were many familiar Monty Python bits and characters, the musical felt fresh. There was even some new jabs pointedly aimed at a San Diego audience.
The musical takeoff on King Arthur and his band of his merry band of Knights of the round table offers non-stop irreverent, satiric bits and jokes that spare no one or anything – straights, gays, Christians, Jews, Broadway musicals and even the local football team. This is not a show for the prudish or narrow minded.
The success of Spamalot is mostly due to comedy genius of Eric Idle who wrote the lyrics and book and collaborated with John Du Prez on the music. Mike Nichols’ snappy direction and Casey Nicholaw’s sparkling choreography keep the audience entranced and glued to the stage.
Luckily for San Diego audiences, this production is blessed with a talented ensemble cast, many taking on multiple roles. Christopher Gurr as King Arthur, plays a lovable, slightly befuddle ruler who gets little respect as he searches for the holy grail. While he often steps out of the spotlight to let the supporting cast do their magic, he gets plenty of opportunity to show that he can sing, dance and be as funny as them all.
Merle Dandridge plays the Lady of the Lake with passion and pizzazz, and has a voice that was made for Broadway musicals. She dominates the stage with her beauty and stature as well as her comedic timing.
Other outstanding performances came from Jeff Dumas, James Beaman, Ben Davis, Matthew Greer and Lenny Daniel. And the show wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t hear the distinctive voice of John Cleese playing God as he only can.
Spamalot is a perfect tonic for these uncertain times. And at least for me, it will provide a smile and a song that will last a lifetime
Please note: For Mature Audiences only due to Immature strong language and gestures.
WHEN: September 8-13, 2009
WHERE: San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B Street, downtown San Diego
PERFORMANCE Tuesday and Wednesday at 7PM
TIMES: Thursday at 7:30PM
Friday at 8PM
Saturday at 2PM & 8PM
Sunday at 1PM & 6PM
TICKET PURCHASE: Civic Theatre Ticket Office, (619) 570-1100
Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000
Group Discounts (619) 564-3001
THEATRE ADDRESS: 3rd and B Street, 1100 Third Ave.
PARKING: Paid parking available in the San Diego Concourse Parking structure.