If you’re looking for light entertainment, catch the last show (July 23) of “Spamalot,” the current offering of the Rockville Musical Theatre.
The show earned 14 Tony nominations when it came to Broadway in 2005, staged by gifted theater and film director Mike Nichols, who started his career as a comic. “Spamalot” won the Tony for Best Musical of the Year.
The show is based on the 1975 cult classic — “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” -- or, as the theater program for “Spamalot” declares, it was “ripped off from the motion picture.”
There are differences, though. The movie has fewer songs and only six actors, who portray the majority of the male parts (and a few female ones). In the musical, the stage is a lot busier, with several actors playing multiple parts.
Which means, even if you’ve seen the movie, you can find new delight in the musical.
Using bits and pieces of the Arthurian legend, and blending parody, puns, and physical comedy, “Spamalot” is funny (if sometimes silly) and wonderful fare for a hot summer day.
It’s also a handful for any director, with frequent changes of costume and roles. But Clare Shaffer is fully up to the task. The energy never lags, and each character is given his or her due.
The choreography, by Michael Page, is a strong suit of the show. The actors are asked to perform tap, the Can-Can, the bottle scene in “Fiddler on the Roof” and a touch of “A Chorus Line.” Amazingly, they pull it all off, with the help of dance captain Colleen Prior.
Beyond that, “Spamalot” spoofs itself, nuns and friars, the Jewish influence on Broadway, non-heterosexual orientation, and even the Divine along the way.
The songs are clever, but also derivative – it’s not the kind of show that leaves you singing as you exit, though you may be dancing a little. Eric Idle, who starred in the “Holy Grail” film, wrote the musical’s book and lyrics, and cowrote, the music with John Du Prez.
The cast is too large, alas, to single out everyone. But they are all to be commended for multifaceted talents.
Brian Lyons-Burke brings dignity as well as silliness – he can’t count right, for example – to the role of King Arthur. He’s the perfect straight man with all the mayhem around him.
Duane Monahan is endearing as Arthur’s servant – particularly when the King laments “I’m All Alone” while the faithful Patsy has been with him all along.
Lee Michele Rosenthal has a commanding presence and a terrific, Ethel Merman-type voice as the Lady of the Lake.
Kevin Belanger, as “Not Dead Fred” (one of the songs in Act I) dances in a manner reminiscent of the scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” and is also funny as the vulgar French Taunter.
Scott Napier plays Sir Galahad, who at first shies away from, then embraces, an unexpected sexual orientation.
Saira Umar is responsible for the atmospheric sets. Matthew Mills is sound designer, and Suzanne Platt is lighting designer.
There were times I couldn’t make out what the actors were saying, which is a shame, especially when I heard laughter from other audience members to jokes I hadn’t caught.
Speaking of the audience members, you can expect also a surprise or two involving them, but I’ll keep those secret.
“Spamalot” is playing at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre of the Civic Center, 603 Edmonston Road, Rockville. For information, visit: www.r-m-t.org.
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