Presented by Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre
Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle
Music by John du Prez & Eric Idle
Lovingly ripped off from the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
Directed and Choreographed by Billy Sprague, Jr.
Music Direction by Jesse Warkentin
September 27 – October 9, 2016
62 Dunham Road
Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre on Facebook
Review by Danielle Rosvally
(Beverly, MA) Hey guys, did you know that there’s a Broadway-quality equity theatre dedicated to bringing glittering seasons of musicals to the North Shore just a stone’s throw from Boston? Maybe it’s because I’m non-native, but until last night I definitely did not. I count myself among the most unhappy of masses to have missed what I’m certain were previous spectacular seasons at Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre. Spamalot, their current offering, is a treat for any Python-head, musical enthusiast, or person with even a tiny sense of humor.
The cast is spectacular; I haven’t seen a group of actors so well credentialed playing pretty much anywhere else in Boston. This motley assembly of Broadway vets nimbly time-steps their way through Monty Python’s outrageous history. Al Bundonis leads the charge as King Arthur, the frequently beleaguered straight man of the evening. Filling out his cast of wacky knights is James Beaman as the eternally terrified Sir Robin, J.D. Daw as the Fabio-esque Sir Galahad, and Jonathan Gregg as the perhaps over-compensatory Sir Lancelot. Gregg’s true moment to shine came in the second act when the otherwise Anglophile evening was temporarily interrupted with a brief (and hilarious) foray into American politics that brought the liberal house down. Haley Swindal gives her all as the Lady of the Lake and uses her incredible pipes to blast her way through the role in a fashion that would make all diva-kind proud. The ensemble is bullet-proof and it’s difficult to espouse the virtues of any one of these performers (or their colleagues in the chorus) since, as a whole, they were all equally incredible.
The costumes by Mark Nagle were impeccably put together; there were no tin foil knights on this stage. Everything that hit the stage looked just like it had been directly imported from Monty Python himself. Sound design by Don Hanna was seamless and smooth, lighting by Jose Santiago perfectly complemented the onstage antics.
One unique element of North Shore Music Theatre is the stage itself; this space is completely in the round. Performing in the round, and particularly performing musical theatre in the round, is a feat not to be underestimated. This company has things down pat; there truly isn’t a bad seat in this house (though there is one particularly good seat about which I will say no more lest I spoil the show).
Despite these many virtues, there is one niggling thought that I can’t shake from my mind since seeing this show. While the play was spectacular, the ensemble strong, and each technical element right in line with what I would expect from the highest tiers of professional theatre, I was left with a quandary I can’t seem to solve. As you may have guessed, I’m a huge Monty Python fan. I have seen …The Holy Grail time and time again and, much like many members of Python fandom, have basically memorized the film. As a result, seeing this show was almost like one big déjà vu. The Python material is, generally, preserved in its original form: word for word a direct transcription of some of the film’s more famous scenes.
This production took the script’s queue and gave us performances that could probably have been lain down as doubling tracks for their filmed counterparts. The actors’ comedic timing was Python-impeccable, their vocal intonations seemingly pulled direct from DVD. There’s something to be said for that attention to detail, but I think there’s also something to be said for originality. Why would you want to stage a show that was, essentially, a remake of a film? What can a company bring to this show to give it some extra pizzazz? The jokes still read and certainly the audience was in stitches all night, but is it enough to trace a masterpiece? Was there something more that NSMT could have brought to this to make it Bill Hanney’s Spamalot rather than Monty Python’s Spamalot lovingly reproduced by Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre? Unfortunately, the production doesn’t seek to find out.
Go see it; definitely go see it; but don’t expect the unexpected. Be prepared for an evening of well-performed Python and you won’t go home disappointed.