It is said that dying is easy and comedy is hard. That may be true, but I am pleased to report that the talented and game cast of Monty Python’s Spamalot, running at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia through March 20, makes comedy look effortless and dying very funny. Adapted “lovingly” from the classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail with book and lyrics by original Python member Eric Idle and music by Idle and John Du Prez, Spamalot, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005, is a parody of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Don’t worry, familiarity with the film or even the story of King Arthur is not required.
In Spamalot, the plot, as it were, takes a backseat to the introduction of countless goofy characters and hilarious song and dance numbers as King Arthur and his knights travel the English countryside in search of the chalice Jesus allegedly drank from at the Last Supper. But the story is really just an excuse for clever wordplay and brilliant sight gags. The laughs come at a clip, fast and furious, and Director/Choreographer Mark Minnick keeps the pace brisk and the humor, for the most part, broad, which is exactly what this kind of comedy requires.
The cast is uniformly excellent, but I was especially taken with Adam Grabau, who works quadruple duty as Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, King Ni, and Tim the Enchanter. His “coming out” number, “His Name Is Lancelot”, is like the Village People’s “YMCA” as reimagined by Carmen Miranda. The seemingly endless parade of costumes was coordinated by Marianne VanStee and Janine Sunday from original designs by Tim Hatley. And speaking of Ms. Sunday, she also plays the Lady of the Lake. Gifted with a powerful voice and sharp comedic timing, she shines in all of her numbers, but especially in “The Song That Goes Like This”, a parody of power ballads from the British mega-musicals of the 1980s and the soulful “Find Your Grail,” a rousing gospel-type number.
I want to single out David James, who is absolutely hysterical in the small but memorable roles of Historian, Not Dead Fred, Minstrel, and Prince Herbert. Get this talented comedic actor a one-man show, immediately!
Although subtlety is almost always kryptonite to humor like this, it works perfectly in the physical comedy between King Arthur (Jordan Stockdale, understudying Alan Hoffman) and his oft-taken-for-granted sidekick Patsy (Quadry Brown, understudying Joey Ellinghaus) in the 11 o’clock number “I’m All Alone.”
If I had one quibble with this production, it’s that the sound design is occasionally muddy. It was somewhat difficult to understand the dialogue at the beginning of the show and during a few of the songs. But this is minor.
Spamalot is silly and stupid. And I mean that as the highest praise. I think we are all entitled to some mindless fun after getting through the past two years. And Spamalot is just what the doctor ordered.
Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Monty Python’s Spamalot plays through March 20, 2022, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road in Columbia, MD. Showtimes are Tuesday through Sunday, and showtimes and prices vary. Senior, military, and group rates are available. Tickets can be purchased directly through the box office by calling 410-730-8311. To purchase tickets online, visit Ticketmaster.com.
The Toby’s Dinner Theatre COVID safety policy is here.
The playbill for Monty Python’s Spamalot is here.
With Brandon Bedore, Marykate Brouillet, Quadry Brown, Justin Calhoun, Morganne Chu, Joey Ellinghaus, Adam Grabau, Alan Hoffman, David James, Amanda Kaplan, Shawn Kettering, Alexis Krey, Shane Lowry, Ariel Messeca, Jeffrey Shankle, Jordan Stockdale, Janine Sunday, Patricia “Pep” Targete, and Brook Urquhart, Set Design by David A. Hopkins, Lighting Design by Lynn Joslin, Sound Design by Mark Smedley, Costume Coordination by Marianne Vanstee and Janine Sunday, Original Costume Design by Tim Hatley