News Column

Looking on the bright side, 'Spamalot' very funny

August 7, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 07--As it should be, the Woodlawn Theatre's staging of "Spamalot" is very funny.

The musical adaptation of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," directed by Greg Hinojosa, follows the 1975 film pretty faithfully. Eric Idle's book also weaves in some fun goofs on musical theater convention, including "The Song That Goes Like This" ("Once in every show/There comes a song like this/It starts off soft and low/ And ends up with a kiss").

The story goes that King Arthur (Kevin Murray), followed about the land by his devoted coconut-wielding lackey Patsy (well-played by Christopher Rodriguez), leads his Knights of the Round Table on a God-given quest to find the Holy Grail. As they hunt for it, they have a variety of very silly adventures and sing a number of very silly songs.

Besides Rodriguez, standouts in the cast include Megan DeYoung, who sings beautifully and is a comedic knockout as the Lady of the Lake; Michael Burger, who gives memorable turns as the "homicidally brave" Sir Lancelot and as the French taunter; and Ben Scharff, who shows off considerable comic chops in a number of small roles, including Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert.

Music director Jane Haas and the band handle the music well.

As entertaining as the show is, attention to a few details would make it stronger. Enunciation was a problem in several spots opening night: The lyrics for "Finland," the opening number, need to be clear for the joke -- the cast has confused the history of England with the history of Finland -- to work. And the discussion between the future Sir Galahad (Walter Songer) and his mother (Peter Gertas) about whether they live in a monarchy or in an autonomous collective wasn't clear, either.

The whistling on "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" needs to be amplified; on opening night, it was barely audible.

The lighting is the biggest issue. Much of the show is simply too dark. The shadowy lighting works beautifully for the "dark and very expensive" forest scene, but it doesn't work elsewhere. The "alms/arms for the poor" bit, for instance, is entirely in the dark. And in a number of scenes, any actor standing at the far left or far right of the stage is out of the light. That's an issue in the scene in which the knights are introduced. The scene ends with the introduction of "the aptly named Sir Not Appearing in this Show" -- if the audience can't see him slink away, the joke dies.

Those are all issues that can be solved. Fixing them would turn an already entertaining show into a must-see.

"Spamalot" can be seen at 7:30 p.m. Fridays- Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 1 at the Woodlawn Theatre, 1920 Fredericksburg Road. Tickets cost $15 to $23. Call 210-267-8388 for reservations, or visit woodlawntheatre.org to buy tickets online.

dlmartin@express-news.net

Twitter: @DeborahMartinEN

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