Laugh a Lot at Moonlight’s Splendid ‘Spamalot’

What’s funnier than the deadly plague and flatulence? How about rhythmic dances with fish slapping and coconut galloping? And who can resist trashing religion, politics, and Andrew Lloyd Weber? The wildly madcap and irreverent Monty Python’s Spamalot, the season opener at Moonlight Amphitheater, could make the dead laugh a lot.

The royally funny cast is stocked with some of San Diego’s best. Deliberately cheesy fairytale sets are the originals from Broadway. You may want to go back a second time just to see the French taunting scene and the cow fly.

Jamie Torcellini & Sean Murray. Photo: Ken Jacques Photography.

Jamie Torcellini as Patsy & Sean Murray as King Arthur. Photo: Ken Jacques Photography.

The title Spamalot comes from “We eat ham, and jam, and Spam a lot,” from a line in the 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The musical milks favorite gags from other Monty Python abominations too, such as the film Life of Brian and Python TV shows.

The silvery Sean Murray, adored artistic director of Cygnet Theater, is the regal buffoon King Arthur and perfect straight man. Jamie Torcellini plays his lowly clip-clopping sidekick Patsy with an extra dose of endearment. He was terrific as Igor in Young Frankenstein last year and brings his golden comic timing and physical expressions to Spamalot.

Braving the worst of the Middle Ages, the duo goes on a quest for the Holy Grail on invisible horses, with Patsy following behind clacking coconuts. Every dismount with legs circling wide and prancing beat is a choreographic delight.

They assemble a band of misfit knights and sing “Knights of the Round Table.” Along the way, they run into scantily clad Laker Girl cheerleaders, stinky French guards, a killer rabbit, and pompous knights who scream Ni and demand a shrubbery.

Christine Hewitt plays a Lady of the Lake with mileage and sings the musical skewering ballad “The Song that Goes like This” twice.

Christine Hewitt as Lady of the Lake. Photo:  Ken Jacques

Christine Hewitt as Lady of the Lake. Photo: Ken Jacques

Larry Raben juggles several parts, including Sir Robin, who dazzles in the song and dance “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” that celebrates the influence of Jews in Broadway and parodies Fiddler on the Roof. For those who loved him as Dr. Frahnkenschteen at Moonlight last year, this is your chance to see more of his endless talent.

Larry Raben (center) and Company. Photo:  Ken Jacques

Larry Raben (center) and Company. Photo: Ken Jacques

Danny Gurwin also does double duty in the show. As the Black Knight he gets his limbs hacked off and gets to say the famous line, “it’s just a flesh wound.” His Sir Dennis Galahad is a loveable cross between Jimmy Fallon and Fabio who flicks his long locks and spews radical political ideology.

Left to Right: Jamie Torcellini, Larry Raben, Sean Murray, Danny Gurwin and Andy Collins. Photo:  Ken Jacques.

Left to Right: Jamie Torcellini, Larry Raben, Sean Murray, Danny Gurwin and Andy Collins. Photo: Ken Jacques.

Michael Cusimano plays the switch hitting Sir Lancelot, French Taunter, Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter who swings from low hanging cardboard clouds. Andy Collins triples up as Galahad’s ugly mum, Sir Bedevere, and Concorde.

The entire Spamalot cast is at full gallop for two hours to dance and sing the often tongue-twisting score. Director/choreographer Brad Bradley was in the original Broadway cast for years before taking on the role of Patsy on the first national tour and it shows. Pacing is swift, but gives enough time to savor the classic one-liners. Dances are complex and syncopated. Energized hints of hip hop are mixed into Vegas-Camelot scenes.

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Lyndon Pugeda directs the 14-piece Spamalot Orchesta from the pit with aplomb. The show ends with the cheeky song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” originally written by Eric Idle for the film Life of Brian – inPython parody style, crucifixion victims sing and whistle and try to dance. It’s a blatant lampoon of Disney’s Pinocchio. Even funnier, the song is now a popular sing-a-long, even at funerals!

Unless you’re dead, Moonlight’s riotous Spamalot production will have you laughing, nay, guffawing a lot. Bring a picnic basket full of Spam and sing a long under the stars through June 28.

“Some things in life are bad, they can make you mad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When you’re chewing on life’s gristle, don’t grumble, give a whistle, and this’ll help things turn out for the best, and…”

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