Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spam, spam, spam, spam...

Python alive and well at BTG
by Christopher Key

Those of us who are of a certain…ahem…vintage got our minds taken over back in the day by an insidious import from Britain that turned us into screaming idiots.  No, I’m not referring to The Beatles, but to a far more subversive phenomenon known as Monty Python.  There are no 12-step programs for this addiction and you can now see its helpless victims lying in the gutters near the Bellingham Theatre Guild, giggling helplessly.

That’s because the BTG occasionally grows a pair and gives us something with a little more substance than the standard musical canon.  Spamalot is not that show.  It’s something far more ridiculous.  It’s ribald, blasphemous and veddy veddy British.  It’s the kind of show that Republican politicians point to with scorn when denouncing the sorry state of the Republic.  If that doesn’t get you in the doors, you need a humor transplant.

Director Earl Reid has assembled a completely loony cast of characters to help him retell the Arthurian legend as if it was a reality show starring Kardashians, Trumps and Palins (none of whom are related to Michael).  To give credit where credit is don’t, Reid gets a lot of help from a script written by Original Python Eric Idle.  Further, deponent sayeth not.  Except to mention that this cast and crew will leave you in need of a truss and some serious anti-psychotics.

Photo credit - David Cohn

Brian Francis leads the way as the thoroughly befuddled King Arthur who can’t understand why no one will buy into his whole Camelot thing.  Riding an invisible horse whose hoofbeats are created with cocoanut shells may have something to do with it. 

Photo credit - David Cohn

Longtime BTG hanger-on Jeffrey Stiglitz has been hiding his clip-clopping talents far too long and finally gets his moment in the spotlight.  He plays Patsy, sort of an Arthurian Sancho Panza, and a star is born.  Or at least a dwarf planet.

Photo credit - David Cohn

Alycia Hendrickson is thoroughly naughty as Arthur’s Lady of the Lake and her amazing voice sends the neighborhood dogs into ecstasy, while occasionally bringing down small planes and the stray NSA drone.

Given that Arthur is a delusional megalomaniac, it should come as no surprise that the knights he collects for his roundtable are not exactly the crème de la crème.  Lancelot, in this version, is a large echo on the gaydar screen.  Choji Yamamoto is simply exquisite in the role.

Photo Credit - David Cohn

He’s obviously not interested in Guinevere, but there is a certain Prince named Herbert whose passion for breaking into song at inappropriate moments reminds us of why musicals are not considered high art.  Will Crow nearly steals the show as the dreamy Herbert.

Photo credit - David Cohn

Speaking of stealing the show brings us to the brilliant Nicole Winkler, whose take on the French Taunter and leader of the Knights Who Say Nih (or Ne, depending on the translation) reminds me of certain surgeons.  She’ll leave you in stitches.

Sir Robin, who is something of an anal-expulsive, brings cowardice to a whole new level and is portrayed perfectly by Steve Guntli.  The trio that sings of his pusillanimity will make you yellow with envy.

Frankly, I could go on for at least two or three more sentences extolling a marvelously manic cast, but some of the techies are friends of mine and I’d better mention them.  Russ Nelson designed the fortifications, built stone-by-stone by Joe Super and his master crew.

Dee Dee O’Connor lights up everybody’s life and Ryan Goelzenleuchter is responsible for the often embarrassing sounds, along with some truly epic special effects.  Only choreographer Kat Riehl could make the knights tap dance in such synchrony.  Aubrey Kornelis is to blame for the evocative costumes.  Deb Manley leads a talented band and makes the music another character in the show.

Spamalot plays September 25 through October 11 at the BTG Playhouse, 1600 H Street.  This is a sure sellout, so order your tickets now by calling (360) 733-1811.  The box office is open Tuesday – Saturday 1:00 – 6:00 p.m.

I don’t know about you, but I whistled along with “Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

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