OGDEN — The Ziegfeld Theatre shows what good community should look like with its latest production of Spamalot. Though working with a small budget to put on a huge production such as this, the Ziegfeld focused on the story telling and the quality of the acting and performances, which made this an impressive and enjoyable evening. Many community theaters in the state with far larger budgets dedicate their time and resources to impressive sets and costumes, but too often neglect the storytelling and honesty in the acting, which are the key ingredient in making a production truly memorable. It was refreshing to see the Ziegfeld’s approach to Spamalot, and I easily forgave the sparse sets and costumes beacuse I was so engrossed in the world created by these fine actors and production team.
Spamalot, with a book by Eric Idle and music by Eric Idle, John Du Prez, and Neil Innes, was a smash hit for years on Broadway, and tells the story of King Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and many other familiar characters in an unusual way. The title of the show itself states that it was “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” which is a popular comedy movies. Favorite characters, moments, and jokes from the original film come to life on stage, along with songs and scenes parodying everything from pop-culture to musical theatre itself. The musical is fast paced and filled with frequent breaks in the fourth wall and interacts so that the audience becomes active participants in the story.
Director Trent Cox successfully helped the actors to function as an ensemble and show real commitment to the various characters they played. The synergy created among the cast was contagious and lead to huge laughs throughout the evening. Cox did an excellent job of shaping the scenes and keeping the pace moving at just the right speed for this comedy. Cox was supported well by Rick Rea, the music director, and Kayln West, the choreographer. I liked West’s fun and energetic choreography and the pictures she created with each number. West’s choreography was also the main ingredient in the production’s frequent showstopper numbers, especially in “Run Away” and “Laker Girls Cheer.” Rea helped the actors to utilize a variety of vocal techniques to tell the story without compromising the quality of the singing. Rich harmonies and strong vocals from each of the lead actors made this production not just good, but on par with many of the more prestigious theatre companies in the area.
Cox made an unconventional yet successful choice to have six main actors essentially create all the characters in the show. These talented leads found different ways of creating each new character, and it was entertaining to see what accent or character would be created the next time a performer was on stage again. Andrew Cole played the main character—King Arthur—on a quest to find the Holy Grail. Andrew Cole was successful in this role as the noble, but often annoyed, monarch. Only occasionally were his sustained notes slightly off pitch, but on the whole Andrew Cole had a strong voice that was well suited for the role. His “I’m All Alone” was especially well done. Colton Ward as Patsy, Arthur’s loyal assistant, gave a flawless performance and was engaging to watch in every scene. I was impressed with how well he listened and responded to the other actors on stage. His reactions were appropriate for the character, and I always knew exactly what Patsy was thinking based on Ward’s facial expressions or body language. This is a real talent, given his large amount of stage time and the character’s relatively few spoken lines and the fact that Patsy served more as a support to the main action on stage. Ward’s powerful voice soared in his delivery of the title song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Aaron Cole played primarily Lancelot, though also several other smaller roles of characters in the play. He was especially successful in “His Name is Lancelot,” and Aaron Cole worked well in his interactions with Herbert. However, it was Aaron Cole’s portrayal of the French Taunter that really impressed me. He made fully committed to the French caricature and delivered a perfect French accent. Jennifer Chadwick as the Lady of the Lake stole the show with many of her scenes. Her “Diva’s Lament” and “The Song that Goes Like This” were especially entertaining. Her soaring voice and great variety of vocal techniques combined with impeccable comedic timing made her a delight to watch. Her tribute to The Phantom of the Opera was another fun and well executed moment.
Cameron Kapetanov impressed me with how different he made each of his characters and his ability to make his scenes feel fresh, even though he had probably rehearsed them dozens of times. I enjoyed his choices as the character “Father” (who had an uncanny resemblance to Hagrid from Harry Potter) and his interactions with his son Herbert. As Sir Gallahad Cameron Kapetanov was especially enjoyable to watch in his delivery of “The Song that Goes Like This” as he worked so well with Chadwick. The two actors played off each other to create this riotously entertaining duet.
My favorite of Quinn Kapetanov’s four roles were Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert. His expansive acting and great facial expressions in “I Am Not Dead Yet” were absolutely hilarious. As Prince Herbert, Quinn Kapetanov embraced the stereotype so very well as the—lets say “damsel in distress.” Herbert’s interactions with his father and not wanting to be married off to the beautiful princess and his strong interest in fashion and decorating really brought this character to life. Marc Nielsen played both Sir Robin and Brother Maynard. His clear voice and strong commitment to his choices in “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” made this one of the most memorable and enjoyable numbers of the evening. He successful satirized a number of Broadway musicals from Fiddler on the Roof to Yentl with the premise being that a show “will not succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews” and some jibes at Andrew Lloyd Webber humor that were especially funny for the musical theater aficionado.
The ensemble members on the whole did a nice job in the group numbers such as in “Laker Girls Cheer” and “The Holy Grail.” The dancing was strong and well executed, occasionally harmonies were slightly off and words were hard to understand. Clearer diction and stronger consonants would have fixed these issues. But in comparison to most community ensembles, the Spamalot cast was far above average.
As mentioned, the costumes (designed by Sarah Baldwin) were fairly basic and most of the set and props (designed by Patrick Brown), were made out of cardboard and styrofoam. However, this didn’t detract from the production and worked in some ways to create the shear silliness and satire of Spamalot. However, I did like the use of projections in the show and felt this enhanced the visual spectacle of the show. This worked particularly well in the “Voice of God” scene. The lighting design (by Austin Stephenson) provided a nice array of colors for many scenes. Occasionally, light cues were a little late or slightly off but will only improve and tighten as the run continues. However, his sound design was generally successful and the actors could clearly be heard over the music tracks.
I would strongly recommend this show as one of the best musical comedies currently running in Utah. The talented actors, the well written script, the fun music and dance numbers and the involvement of the audience throughout the evening had me laughing from beginning to end. There is never a dull moment or a weak scene, and each joke comes in succession one after another, satirizing musical theater, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Great Britain, gay marriage, and more. The show is well worth the drive to Ogden to see this hilarious comedy and you will come away uplifted with the message to “Always look on the Bright Side of Life.”