Theater Review: Studio Tenn’s Spamalot

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The brilliance of Monty Python comes to life on stage with a parody of the Arthurian legend.

Studio Tenn presents:
Monty Python’s Spamalot (May 4 – 21; Ages 12 & older)
Jamison Theater at The Factory
230 Franklin Road, Franklin
615-540-8200 • studiotenn.com
Show times: Thu – Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 & 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $35 – $90

The brilliant British humor of Monty Python will tickle your funny bone with Studio Tenn’s run of Spamalot. The musical comedy is an adaptation of the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Like the film, Spamalot is a highly irreverent spoof of the King Arthur legend, although it differs a great deal from the movie.

Spamalot is the brainchild of Monty Python’s own Eric Idle — he wrote the book and lyrics for the musical. The original 2005 Broadway won the Tony for Best Musical.

The large cast of 20 includes a first for Studio Tenn. Artistic Director Matt Logan and Managing Director Jake Speck share the spotlight for the first time in a non-holiday Studio Tenn show. They portray King Arthur and Sir Robin, respectively.

Kim Bretton’s direction brings many hoots, beginning with two townsmen contemplating the capacity of birds to transport coconuts; it’s classic Python schtick that’s purely absurd and comical.

The most memorable Holy Grail antics are intact with the musical. Guffaw-inspiring moments include Garris Wimmer’s coconut-clapping routine as Patsy, the killer rabbit, “bring out your dead,” the Black Knight (Mike Baum), the Knight of Ni and Tim (both by Joe Beuerlein), and Arthur’s secondary quest for an important shrubbery.

Idle’s unique humor comes through in his writing that celebrates shrewd idiocy (the script itself is the ultimate star of the show). Overall, Studio Tenn delivers the funny in fine form. Laura Matula as the mysterious Lady of the Lake serves up the appropriate sassy scorn in “The Diva’s Lament,” and she also leads the company in Act I’s standout musical number, the rousing “Find Your Grail.”

Speck provides many humorous moments with his memorable portrayal of the dim-witted Robin (he also plays a couple of ensemble characters). The “Brave Sir Robin” number in Act II with the Minstrels serves as the stand-out performance in the show.

Other favorite musical numbers include “I Am Not Dead Yet,” “The Song That Goes Like This,” “His Name is Lancelot” and the show’s signature ditty, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which was lifted from Monty Python’s 1979 film The Life of Brian. Stephen Kummer leads the exquisite band.

Spamalot’s deviation from Grail includes the Camelot nightclub scene that echos Vegas show girls (“Laker Girls Cheer”) as well as a few song-and-dance extravaganzas reminiscent of the tongue-in-cheek Forbidden Broadway. It’s these numbers that present the main obstacle for Studio Tenn — its “stage” is too small for the size of this show. Many times throughout the production it all feels too crowded for the cast and set. Furthermore, those big ensemble numbers become in-your-face overwhelming to the audience. The important spatial relationship between audience and stage is in jeopardy with this show. Spamalot is a big, over-the-top production, and it would be better suited in a larger space like TPAC’s Polk Theater so the audience and cast have enough breathing room between them. Since Studio Tenn seems to be bursting at the seams in a great way, perhaps it’s time to consider a bigger home turf.

That said, Studio Tenn’s Spamalot is certainly amusing and a fun way to wrap up its season.

 

 

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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