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And now for something completely wonderful -- `Spamalot’

September 15, 2013 - Andy Gray
Do you like … eh … musicals?

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Know what I mean?

Well, say no more, say no more, have I got a musical for you.

"Spamalot" opened Friday at Youngstown Playhouse, delivering a full Monty (Python) of irreverent, impudent humor.

Fans of Monty Python shouldn’t worry that “Spamalot” is some lame piece of theater that misses what made the British comedy troupe great. After all, Eric Idle was instrumental in creating the show (with John Du Prez), and he culls the best bits from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” as well as gags from and winks at other skits from the Python repertoire.

And director Lester Malizia and his cast clearly are Python fans. Like Shakespeare or David Mamet, Python’s work has a rhythm all its own. The Playhouse cast settles into that rhythm seemingly effortlessly, and the actors embrace the style without resorting to simple mimicry.

David El’Hatton brings a blend of gravitas and exasperation to the role of King Arthur (and a rich baritone) as he tries to assemble a team of knights to find the grail. Mark McConnell displays a fine singing voice on “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and impeccable comedic timing as the King’s loyal, forgotten sidekick.

Whitney Jenkins, who has the only female role of any significant size as the Lady of the Lake, delivers her big number, “The Diva’s Lament,” with all of the attitude it demands.

Anthony Ventura gets the biggest laughs of the night as the French Taunter and is equally good as Lancelot. He also is a nimble dancer, and a lot of the credit for the success of Friday’s show should go to choreographer Jonelle Paris. Guys and dancing can be a painful combination in community theater. Paris’moves are creative, and they are executed with surprising skill by the men.

The other knights – played by Alan McCreary, Travis Ascione and David Lynch – all get a chance to shine as do the supporting players, particularly Donny Wolford on “I Am Not Dead Yet” and as Prince Herbert.

Frankly, there isn’t a weak link in the cast, and Malizia’s staging keeps the humor crackling throughout while not skimping on the musical theater elements.

For those who aren’t Monty Python fans, first, what is your problem? But, second, you might be surprised how much you’ll enjoy “Spamalot” too.

Admittedly, the Python’s mix of the profane and the silly isn’t for everyone. But “Spamalot” is just as much a spoof of Broadway musicals.

Theater fans will enjoy the self-referential humor of songs like “The Song That Goes Like This” and “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” and little jokes that reference Stephen Sondheim, “Phantom of the Opera” and a host of other theater luminaries and shows. There also are a couple of priceless local references in the finale.

The sets (Jimmy Lybarger), costumes (Elizabeth Nalepa) and lighting (Leslie Brown) all help make for an impressive and entertaining night of the theater that had me whistling in the parking lot. It’s easy to look on the bright side when a show comes together this well.

“Spamalot” runs through Sept. 22 at Youngstown Playhouse, 600 Playhouse Lane, with show times at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students. For reservations or more information, call 330-788-8739 or go to www.theyoungstownplayhouse.com

 
 

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