What happens in Camelot stays in Camelot…and you really want to be there for the hijinks, the chaos, and the fun! Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre opened a top-notch, sparkling, and silly Spamalot in Winchester last night. This production runs through July 6th – and is totally worth making the hour’s trip west from the DC area.
Directed by Richard Costa, who appeared in both the original Vegas and the national touring productions of Spamalot, this high energy production never falters. It careens giddily through the mad humor of Monty Python, adding moments of whimsy in unexpected places. Costa is assisted by the crisp choreography of Edward Carnigan, who puts the youthful cast through their paces, with strong, clean tap numbers and acrobatic musical theatre dance sprees. The orchestra, under the capable musical direction of Karen Keating, adds to the zaniness with a strong – and often comical – performance.
Helen Hayes Award winner and Broadway veteran Stephen Paul Cramer graces the stage as King Arthur, the often clueless monarch leading the quest for the Holy Grail. Cramer anchors the show in an effective star turn, providing the perfect foil for the silliness and keeping himself above the fray with a wink and a nod. His Arthur is immensely likeable and his vocals are gorgeous, particularly in his numbers with the long-suffering, coconut clapping Patsy (a winsome and strongly voiced performance by Shenandoah University student Rafael Martinez-Salgado) and the divalicious scene-stealing Lady of the Lake (Tess Marshall). Cramer and Salgado particularly shine in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and “I’m All Alone.” Their chemistry and humor propels the audience through the second act as the knights are dispersed by the French and wander in the dark and extremely expensive forest searching for a shrub.
Shenandoah University junior Tess Marshall hands-down runs away with the show in a scene-stealing performance as the Lady of the Lake. Marshall’s excellent sense of comic timing propels her through the many nuances of the Lady of the Lake, from satirizing The Phantom of the Opera in a wickedly funny “The Song That Goes Like This” (dueting with the divinely goofy Zac Ostrowski as Sir Galahad), channeling Cher in a gorgeously over-the-top performance in “Knights of the Round Table”, or showcasing the incredible range of her pop vocals in “Find Your Grail.” Marshall’s wickedly funny performance in “The Diva’s Lament” in Act Two is a powerhouse showcase of comic timing and strong vocals – cementing her reputation as a scene stealer and making her one to watch in the future.
Cramer, Martinez-Salgado, and Marshall are supported by a stellar troupe of hopelessly inept knights, played with good humor and aplomb by R.C. Hines, Christopher Prasse, Russell Rinker, Zac Ostrowski, and Daniel Pippert. Russell Rinker delivers a standout performance as Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, Knight of Ni, and Tim the Enchanter, especially delighting in “I Am Not Dead Yet” and “His Name is Lancelot.” In addition to playing Sir Galahad, Zac Ostrowski has a particularly memorable bit as The Black Knight. Christopher Prasse is wonderfully expressive as the timidly brave Sir Robin – and his showmanship in “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” is a standout moment in Act Two.
Spamalot is gorgeous and the SSMT production staff has worked hard to create King Arthur’s kingdom in all of its glory. Cheryl Yancey’s costumes are sumptuous and spot on. Her creations for the Lady of the Lake are especially noteworthy. William Pierson’s scenic design is innovative and perfectly captures the nuttiness of this show, whether through the Phantom of the Opera-inspired boat ride for “The Song That Goes Like This,” the Vegas-inspired castle for “Knights of the Round Table,” or the dark and extremely expensive forest in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” William McConnell Bozman’s solid lighting design also adds to the glory of Spamalot, particularly in the scenes with God (comically voiced by Monty Python’s Eric Idle).
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with intermission.
Spamalot plays through July 6, 2014 at Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, performing at the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre- 1460 University Drive, Winchester, VA 22601. For tickets, call the box office at (540) 665-4569, or (877) 580-8025, or purchase them online.