Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s production of Eric Idle’s Spamalot, which opened Friday at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, captures the wacky tone of this warped, musical retelling of the legend of King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail with guffaw-inducing zeal.
This show, built primarily with scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, an early feature from that Brit comedy troupe that dramatically raised its global profile back in 1975, was a smash on Broadway, running on the Great White Way for almost four years from 2005 to 2009. It has only recently become available to community theaters and, with a musical of this size and scope, there is always a question of whether it can be produced effectively in the low-budget world of non-professional theater.
But this production of Spamalot, which is the first by a Fort Worth theatre, makes it clear that this cheeky bit of foolishness can work quite well on a smaller stage.
Directors Jason Morgan and Alex Krus have assembled a fine cast to populate their Round Table. Michael Rudd, as King Arthur, holds things together well by refusing to allow the slightest bit of irony to creep into his interpretation. He gets a lot of help from Lee Littlefield, as Arthur’s devoted servant, Patsy; Christian Schmoker, as the highly sensitive Prince Herbert (and several other parts); and Tom DeWester, as the not-so-brave Sir Robin and others. It is especially good to see the talented DeWester, who has done some fine work in Mid-Cities theaters over the years, on a Fort Worth stage. He is sometimes guilty of straying from the script, but he brightens up any show he does.
As good as the gents are, they are blown off the stage by a “Lady.” Or, more specifically, the Lady of Lake, played uproariously by Caroline Rivera. She displays a Madeline Kahn-like comic sensibility in both her acting and singing that makes you agree with her when she complains in her second act number, The Diva’s Lament, that her part is just not big enough.
The show also has a winning look. The set by Krus is a couple of notches above the usual for this house. Even more dazzling are the costumes by Lauren Morgan (leading a small army of costumers). The staggering number of outfits employed are all beautifully done.
The flaws with the production are that it has a recorded music (which included a terrible buzz for far too long at the Saturday performance seen for this review), some of the special effects could be done a bit better and, as is usually the case with SSG productions, the quality of the acting drops off in the lower reaches of the cast list.
But Morgan and Krus’ direction is right on the money, Shelley Ohmes and Becca Brown’s choreography make good use of the available space (although the Laker Girls are a little scary). The singing, especially in the choruses, is strong and the whole, ridiculous romp honors the original far better than we have a right to expect.
It appears that, with this production, SSG is making art in your general direction.