SPAMALOTSpringers at the Civic Theatre
For a long time I avoided this self-confessed Python rip-off. Flattery lured me to the Playhouse in the end, where I had a very enjoyable time …
And great fun at the Civic, too: a bigger stage, a much bigger company, enthusiastically embracing the shamelessly bold style this unique show demands.
The audience may well come along with expectations, from the Python Grail film, or from seeing one of the many incarnations of this 2005 stage version. On opening night they went wild for the shrubbery, and lustily whistled along to the big number from Peter Spilling's put-upon horse's arse Patsy.
It was great to see a full chorus: the showgirls, in a succession of gorgeous frocks, were variously cheerleaders, minstrels, corps de ballet and much more. The chorus boys had their moments too, climaxing in the copacabana campery in Prince Herbert's chamber.
Despite some hitches, most of which we could forgive in the spirit of silliness, there were many effective bits of staging: the flag waving, the light sabre brollies, the stilts for Amy Serin's first Knight of Ni. Some perfect pastiche, too, notably The Song That Goes Like This, deliciously done by Ian Pavelin's excellent Galahad and his elegant Lady of the Lake, Olivia Pearson.
Many fine performances from the largest roles [Colin Shoard's Arthur King] to the smallest [a balletic friar, a Marceau mime]. It does help if there's a shared sense of fun, guilty pleasures being taken on both sides of the fourth wall. Certainly the case for Jay Fargeot's Lancelot, Bradley Cole's Broadway-obsessed Brave Sir Robin, and Justin Clarke's two silly voices as Tim the Enchanter and the rude Froggie sentinel. Kieran Young, who was also one of the roster of nine choreographers, got to play both Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert, sporting the fruitiest Carmen Miranda ever.
Spamalot was directed for Springers by Barry Miles, with the MD Ian Myers in charge of a big pit band – the oompah Not Yet Dead one of many merry musical moments.
production photograph: Aaron Crowe