Most of our dear readers will be well aware of the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a classic of, well, whatever it is. This reviewer is an unapologetic fan of Monty Python; I’ve seen all the movies and every episode of the TV series. Odd bits of the dialogue crop up in my conversations to the occasional dismay of my friends. Somehow, although this musical dates from 2005, I had not yet had the chance to take it in, so this production by Davidson Community Players was my opportunity.

Eric Idle wrote the book and lyrics, with music by John Du Prez, Eric Idle, and Neil Innes. This production is directed by Christian Casper. The pit orchestra, as is generally the case for DCP musical productions, used a score arranged for the forces at hand: keyboard (played by music director Annie Beach), percussion, guitar/banjo, bass, and two trumpets. While the reduced orchestra in previous shows came up somewhat short, it did fine in this production, with some occasional lapses. The pit was backstage somewhere, and, evidently, it was difficult for the singers to have visual contact with the musicians offstage. But this is all camp silliness, not Tosca, so what the heck.

And I do mean CAMP. If there were a definitive musical for the term, this might qualify, although John Waters films do pretty well also. The script follows the film to a certain degree in the first of the two acts, but it diverges quite a bit in the second. As you might imagine, the limitations of a stage production require a good deal of abstraction, especially with such a surreal storyline. How exactly to stage the “None Shall Pass” scene with multiple amputations? This production, as in many by DCP, has plenty of sophistication to the sets, and room enough on the large stage to fling them about as needed. The tech crew is large and works hard, and it shows. There was a bit of insufficiency in the lighting; in the second act, some actors were up the aisles, but with no lights on them, dancing in the dark.

King Arthur is played by the rotund Josh Logsdon, who gives the faux-gravitas required of his role. Sir Robin is played by Tyson Hamilton, whose shtick is soiling his pants at the slightest fright. Sir Galahad (John DeMicco) starts off (as in the movie) as dirt farmer and proto-communist Dennis. Accosted by King Arthur requesting to see his lord, Dennis questions his legitimacy to boss people around: “Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!” One more reason I wish our president and vice president could be in the audience. See, I’m still quoting Monty Python…but not with the English accent convincingly used by the actors, along with the occasional French and Scottish, with some American breaks.

Sir Lancelot, played by Matthew Thomas-Reid, gets a message via arrow (into his aide) from yonder tower, from, seemingly, a damsel in distress. This is just the ticket for a knight-errant, and off he goes. When he gets to the castle room, though, he finds not the king’s daughter, but rather his Broadway musical-loving son, unwilling to marry the girl of his father’s choosing. Complications ensue. The English are endlessly amused by cross-dressing, so expect much more of it here than in the movie.

Sarah Farra took on the part of Lady of the Lake with slutty panache and plenty of wretched excess, well suited to the part.

One small quibble I hope you will allow. The Holy Hand Grenade is supposed to be a globus cruciger, or orb and cross. In the movie, the cross is pulled and orb tossed at the savage rabbit. However, in this production, the prop has a small ring instead of a cross, which rather defeats the point. Perhaps the props staff can fix this for future shows?

There were a few moments in the musical in which the endless barrage of crazy wore a touch thin, and it was hard to discern what exactly was going on in the confusion. The first act seemed stronger than the second, mostly due to the script, which seemed to run out of creative steam towards the end. As in other productions, the singers were amplified, which was quite welcome and really necessary in that hall.

Attendance was very good for this opening night, and the audience was well pleased. I encourage all with a taste for English wit and campy Broadway productions to give this a go.

Spamalot continues through Sunday, July 1. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.