SALT LAKE CITY — Fans of Monty Python‘s seminal cinematic classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail will be pleased to know that Eric Idle‘s loving re-imagining of the film is getting worthy treatment from the collection of comic actors at The Grand Theatre. Spamalot is the fantastically irreverent and garishly glitzy take on Holy Grail’s story of King Arthur’s holy quest for the aforementioned cup. The musical retains some favorite bits and gags from the movie (such as the killer bunny rabbit and the taunting Frenchman), while adding a wonderful comedic character in The Lady of the Lake (played by Olivia Custodio).
The songs, brilliantly penned by Idle and John Du Prez, lend a bit more meat to the story as well, and they serve as a sort of cheeky antidote to frequent local productions of Oklahoma! or The Music Man. The musical cheerfully lampoons Broadway standards and tropes with songs like “The Song That Goes Like This” and “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway.”
A consummate defender and student of comedy, I was anxious to see how The Grand Theatre would handle the subtle absurdism mingled with broad schtick inherent in the script. I was not disappointed. I think my date and I laughed so hard we frightened the people sitting around us. My favorite was Custodio as the Lady of the Lake, whose comedic skills were well-worthy of the nutty lyrics. She handled her ensemble and solo moments with great panache, infusing “Find Your Grail” and “The Diva’s Lament” with her own brand of bold and brash hilarity.
Other standout performances came from Scott Butler as Patsy and Cameron Holzman as Prince Herbert. Not only was Butler a great clown, but his dancing and singing in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” showed him to be a true triple-threat. Holzman’s well-executed and highly hilarious falsetto in “Where Are You?” and “Here You Are!” had me in stitches. I like the added plot line of a romance between Herbert and Lancelot, as it is a trope that could come off as homophobic but, due to Idle’s clever lyrics and the performance of Holzman and Trevor B. Dean, as Lancelot plays as sweet and optimistic.
I must applaud director Jamie Rocha Allan for his utilization of gender-blind casting. Roles like Sir Robin (played by Britty Marie), Not-Dead-Fred (played by Amy Ware), and Tim the Enchanter (played by Carson Kohler), not only worked, but added an extra layer of comedy that wouldn’t exist if played by the expected gender. Marie’s Sir Robin was decidedly endearing, and her performance of perhaps the most brash number in the show, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” painted her character as adorable rather than foolish. It was indeed a strong ensemble show with plenty of examples of engaging dance numbers, solid vocal performances, and generally good accent work.
Set designer Halee Rasmussen and costume designer Shannon McCullock appear to have made the very most with a modest budget, with Rasmussen’s set encompassing the space with cartoonish grandeur and colorful fantasy befitting the script and McCullock’s bright and vivid costumes making the characters sparkle. I loved every dress McCullock put the Lady in the Lake in. She knew just how to make a leading lady lovely and glamorous.
Spamalot at The Grand is a worthy and successful endeavor, and I heartily recommend it to anyone in need of a belly laugh.
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