SPAMALOT WITH JOE PASQUALE
"Such a generous performer – brilliant to play against. He's spontaneous, and unpredictable, but in a good way!"
That's no less a knight than Sir Lancelot, aka Kit Orton, talking about the inimitable Joe Pasquale, who's enjoying a run as King Arthur in the Monty Python rip-off musical at the Playhouse this month.
And Joe is a happy man, too. "I'd say it's the highlight of my career. Just saying Eric's words – comedy by numbers really – you're stone bonkers guaranteed to get the laughs. We've got people falling about every night. And that's not me, it's not even Bonnie [Langford, a showstoppingly theatrical Lady of the Lake/Guinevere], it's the wonderful script. Believe me, if I could stay, I would …"
But it's a busy life for Pasquale – a stand-up tour, then Ha Ha Holmes, before panto in Wolverhampton. But I wouldn't be surprised to see him back in the Spamalot family. Where everyone seems to be enjoying what is clearly fun, as well as a punishingly demanding two hours. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime job – doesn't feel like work !" Orton again, who joined the show in 2010 and has worked his way up. "It's such a giggle. We've done it thousands of times, but it changes with every audience. People say 'My husband dragged me along, but I loved it, never stopped laughing …'"
So what has Joe Pasquale brought to the Round Table ? Well, there does seem to be a deal more giggling and corpsing [never forced or contrived, Lancelot assures me] and King Arthur is done with an unassuming sense of fun and mild bewilderment, as if he can't quite believe he's found himself in Days of Old. The audience, needless to say, loves every minute. As the excellent Rob Delaney reminds us in what is for my money the best song in the show – You Won't Succeed – it helps to have a star.
And this summer Hugh Bonneville, Barbara Windsor, Larry Lamb, Bradley Walsh, Simon Callow and Christopher Biggins will all be appearing, in video segments, in the role of God, normally done by the show's creator Eric Idle, to raise money for charity. Some lesser mortals have also been treading the Playhouse boards in the rather more modest role of Sir Not Appearing. And, having reviewed the show in June, I was thrilled to join their ranks on July 11 – my experiences here …