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Look on the Bright Side of Life at Incline’s “Spamalot”

Review by Laurel Humes of Spamalot: Incline Theatre

Just for laughs – a lot of them! – go see Spamalot at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

The full name of the musical comedy is Monty Python’s Spamalot. That’s what you need to know about this mix of irreverent wit, silliness, sight gags, and fart jokes. It’s the Monty Python package.

Still, the show won three Tony awards for its 2005 Broadway run and ran nearly four years. Incline’s production does it full justice.

Spamalot is a parody of the King Arthur legend. King Arthur, armed with the sword Excalibur, seeks knights who will sit at his Roundtable and help him find the Holy Grail.

It could be a parody of the beloved musical Camelot, but Eric Idle (book, lyrics, music) set his sights on a broader sendup of Broadway musicals overall. “The Song That Goes Like This” starts as a lovely duet: “Once in every show, there comes a song like this/it starts off soft and low, and ends up with a kiss. A sentimental song that casts a magic spell/they all will hum along, we’ll overact like hell.” But the song ends in an argument about the musical key.

There also is a clever tableau of ensemble members each dressed to represent a Broadway show. It is fun to spot Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Book of Mormon and even Dear Evan Hansen.

In Spamalot, Camelot is a neon-lit Las Vegas with showgirls, God speaks directly to Arthur from a cloud, and coconuts banged together stand in for the sound of horse hooves. There is sometimes cringe-worthy satire of gays and Jews.

Matthew Wilson has directed a talented and energetic 16-member cast, nearly all playing multiple parts. The staging is brisk. The sight gags are well-executed. The voices, individual and ensemble, are splendid.

Rodger Pille as King Arthur holds the show together. At first the character appears to be the mature center, but even the idealistic Arthur doesn’t escape Spamalot’s satiric brush.  “Who’s the King?” Arthur shouts to a group of cheerleaders (don’t ask). “You are,” they shout back.

Pille and the engaging Aaron Whitehead, as Arthur’s sidekick Patsy, share two memorable numbers. Patsy advises Arthur to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” then is joined by an umbrella-twirling ensemble. Even funnier is Whitehead’s reaction to Arthur’s “I’m All Alone,” sung right next to Patsy.

The knights Arthur assembles are all profoundly odd, read: hilarious. Brett Bowling is very funny as Sir Lancelot the Homicidally Brave, as is Kyle Taylor as timid Sir Robin, scared of everything.

Allison Bredestege is a standout as Lady of the Lake, who legend says gave Arthur Excalibur. It would be worth the ticket price just to hear her belt out the hilarious “Whatever Happened to My Part.”

Applause to costume designer Caren Brady. The sheer number of costumes is admirable, from knight’s mail to monks to showgirls to cheerleaders, and all done so well.

Monty Python’s Spamalot continues through April 8 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.