Chatham Community Players, in Chatham, New Jersey, closes its brilliant 2015-16 season with the goofy good fun “SPAMalot,” from the febrile brains of the Monty Python crew. Ripping themselves off, they made a musical of their hits ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ and parts of ‘Life of Brian’ to make a lovable bastard of a play that includes salty language, lots of low humor, and sight gags galore. This is an ambitious play for any company, and Chatham elevates the form with some very skillful players.
Initially, our Historian (Gus Ibranyi) brings us into the mood by giving us an idea of where civilization was in 932 A.D. King Arthur (Mark Smith) and his faithful squire Patsy (Joseph Laurino) travel the world looking for a few good knights. Truly, Patsy is a bit like Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza in making sure his King gets where he needs to go and spends his time assuring that everything goes smoothly. Doesn’t everyone need a Patsy? Ultimately, there are four knights who are his core group, Sir Robin (Chip Prestera), Sir Lancelot (Peter Horn), Sir Galahad (Mike Patierno), and Sir Bedevere (Howard Fischer). These worthies accompany Arthur in his quest, as he is king by rights, having been awarded a sword-did by the Lady of the Lake (Robin Lee Horn). Most of our stalwart principals play multiple roles and the performances are outstanding.
Lovers of “SPAMalot” will find their own highlights in this production, and here are some of mine: Patsy’s face is evocative–his expressions include long-suffering, what-the-heck, and more, and Laurino is someone I’ll be watching for in future productions in the area. Smith’s utter cluelessness throughout is just plain fun because it SO seems to be coming from within. Robin Lee Horn is a vocal chameleon, giving us a tour of every style she can do, from belt to Bette-Cher-Vega$ lounge singer to legit. In everything Peter Horn did, he resonated so much with Python-spirit and his agility on stilts as Chief Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter had me on the edge of my seat and wasn’t that him in the bekishe playing fiddle on the roof? Prestera’s Sir Robin was born for the production number “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” where he played the piano like the love child of Bugs Bunny and Victor Borge, commanding our attention with both his comic skill and classical chops, then leading the ensemble in a brilliant white set of tails! Patierno was viciously funny as Herbert’s father, especially his Scottish accent. Fischer’s Concorde was as brilliant as his Dennis’ Mother, and Concorde’s sudden arrow in the belly had me laughing out loud! Clearly the English were very very tough in the early early days and this show is veddy veddy English in its commentary on class and country.
The ensemble is energy personified with the men, Jonathan Duvelson, Ronin Ruste, Christopher Erdman, and Cameron Brito, becoming chameleons, sometimes minstrels, Latin dancers, monks, and more. The women, Lori Reyes, Alyssa Carbonell, Emily Cyrier, Toni Orallo, Danielle Pennisi, and Ashley Phillips became Laker Girls, Show Girls, Knights of Ni, and more. All were inspiring and the overall energy in the production could turn every light on in Chatham and keep them burning.
A special shout out goes to backstage crew and props folks, led by Tom Marshall, who had to manage the various large moving pieces—like the AMAZING Rabbit of Troy, which I understand was built by director James Mosser in a single afternoon—and the rapid pace of the show. Kate Pierce and Tish Lum had a props tsunami to acquire and navigate. There’s precious little space backstage anywhere and this is a very large cast. Cheryl Galante and Christina Kirk had their costuming work cut out for them and Richard Hennessy’s lights and Joe DeVico’s sound designs were spot-on, with delightful projections above the stage, as well as designs that took our eyes and ears from place to place. The sets, designed by Bob Lukasik and Roy Pancirov and painted by Andrea and Dean Sickler, were a work of art on their own, and Patrick Phillips’ musical direction and Jennifer Williams’ choreography were dazzlingly realized by the skilled cast and ensemble. You want some fun? You know what to do.
Hie thee to Chatham Community Players’ website at www.ChathamPlayers.org
to reserve this instant! Camelot didn’t last forever and even Spam isn’t permanent–get your tickets now to be sure to see this show before May 21 to get a dose of great fun. And check your calendar now, as the 2016-17 has just been announced!