By Max Jackson
Spam. Even when out of its can it maintains its shape, and, though strange, when prepared correctly, can be delicious. And just like the food, George Mason’s production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” keeps true to form and is an absolute treat to watch.
Based off of the classic 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the musical adaptation “Spamalot” made its Broadway debut in 2005, running for over 1,500 performances and garnering 14 Tony nominations, winning three, including Best Musical. It follows King Arthur and the Knights of the Round table in their quest to find the Holy Grail, constantly interrupted by all manner of random things, like a rude Frenchmen, fourth wall-breaks, and even God himself.
George Mason’s production is full of charm and liveliness, and clearly the cast and crew have great respect for the original movie. Masterfully recreating the Flying Circus’ bizarre humor, everyone in the cast delivers the jokes with incredible charisma and timing. Accompanied by a superb orchestra, each song was imbued with its own personality and heart.
As Arthur, Miles Jackson perfectly captured Graham Chapman’s original oblivious nobility as the straight man, knowing exactly when to understate his otherwise cartoon-ish expressions to nail a joke. His singing skills match, with a powerful voice that never wavered through his spot-on accent. Dede Colbert, as the Lady of the Lake, showed remarkable vocal range, not just with pitch but with expression of emotion. Commanding the stage each time she was escorted on by her posse of choir singers, her sarcasm and intensity captivated people’s attention.
Rounding out the cast were the Knights of the Round Table, each with their own personality and comedic style. They brought hilarity to every moment, from the punchlines to minute background reactions. Another standout supporting role was Will Langan’s Patsy. King Arthur’s loyal servant and horse-impersonator, he brought a sarcastic yet endearing charm to his character, highlighted with moments of honest emotion. And filling in the rest of the cast, the ensemble brought life to every single performance. The dead bodies on the cart, the French Taunter, the Knights of Ni, everyone was a pleasure to watch as they nailed the delivery of such classic lines. And everyone in the cast flawlessly delivered the physicality with amazing animation, which carried over to the dancing. Frenzied and lively to match the music, the dancers pulled off many styles of choreography. Each dance had a new feel that the performers executed without a hitch.
The rather simple-looking set proved to be varied and interesting, with many ladders and entryways making even the performers’ entrances funny. Using every inch and level to pull off the physical comedy, they squeezed whatever opportunity they could out of their set. Ben Salak’s lighting design was subtle, yet just enough, using vibrant greens and blues to establish the cartoon-ish element of the environments and songs. The props department clearly knew what they needed to recreate the Monty Python magic. While some props looked simple to match the ridiculous aesthetic, some were incredibly detailed, echoing Terry Gilliam’s original art design. The same goes for Delaney Theisz’s costume design, a mix of simple and extravagant clothing for the peculiar characters.
There’s so much to congratulate with this show. Not only did every aspect demonstrate an appreciation for the source material, but everyone involved was clearly having an enormous amount of fun, which improved the audience’s already fantastic experience. As any Monty Python work should be, George Mason’s “Spamalot” was charming, outrageous, captivating, and indeed, very, very silly.