If you trust in your soul, keep your eyes on the goal, then the prize you won’t fail— you’ll find your grail at Cockpit in Court this summer with their second mainstage production, Monty Python’s Spamalot. Directed by Laurie Sentman Starkey with Musical Direction by R. Christopher Rose, this instance of comedic musical theatre has a little something for everybody. Be you a Monty Python fan, a musical theatre fan, neither, or both, there’s a little treasure— a little grail— tucked away in the workings just for you! But you’ll only get to find your grail if you come along and see the show.
A technical beast of a show, the Cockpit in Court summer production team does their best to really pull out all the stops. Between Scenic Designer Michael Rasinski, Lighting Designer Kacey Conn, and Sound Designer Jacob Urtes, there are a great many successes throughout the performance that keep the audience engrossed in the aesthetic. (Look for God’s sixth toe, the hysterical sight-gag involving ‘Tim the Enchanter’, and the Vegas-style lights that run up the length of the Camelot castle.)
Costume Coordinator Mark Briner (whose wellspring of creativity was stocked by Looking For Costumes & Costume World Inc.,) really fits the ensemble with the specific look required of The Nights of the Roundtable and all of the other quirky and whimsical characters that Spamalot requires to be successful. The “secret reveal” dress featured on the Lady of the Lake (spoilers!) is pinned most exceptionally and is particularly flattering in the way Briner has worked it into her wardrobe.
Enthusiasm is the word that populates the overall feeling of Choreographer Amanda Dickson’s dance routines. Though there are moments where a lack of synchronicity as largely noticeable, the overall energetic enjoyment of the dancers, which is consistently present and strong throughout the production, almost makes up for this entirely. Dickson does succeed in pulling the focus to the stronger dancers in larger group numbers like the tap routine for “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (led by Patsy) or having the well-versed dancing girls of the ensemble take point in the Camelot dance scene. Featured praise goes to Stanton Zacker for his “I Am Not Dead Yet” solo dance feature as well as his spinning nun-and-priest whirl (with Tyrell Stanley) during “Knights of the Round Table.”
Good performances from the supporting characters— like Jeff Burch as Sir Robin and Steve Flickinger as Sir Lancelot and others— keeps the show moving along with rich moments of entertainment. Austin Shields throws his hat into the entertainment ring as well by taking up the singing role of the Minstrel for “Brave Sir Robin”— a most humorously devious number— and later as the falsetto Prince Herbert, a role which is rather well-suited for Shields, given how thoroughly he lives in the skin of the character.
Chip Meister as Sir Bedevere is also a character portrayal worth praising. Meister, who should actually be noted for his hysterical portrayal of Mrs. Galahad and the wounded Concord, has a keen sense of Monty Python’s comedic timing. As the Mother of Denis, he and Patsy (Gary Dieter) go for a good old-fashioned “ham-off” when it comes to who is winning the funky-monkey dance competition in the interlude between “Come with Me” and “The Song that Goes Like This.”
Dieter, who is a classic physical comedy clown, really works his magic to make the character of Patsy sparkle. With cheeky little nods to his tap-dancer days, once he gets an arm full of shrubbery (and can thus no longer clack his coconuts ‘to horse’ off-stage) he simply uses his tap shoes ‘to horse’ and it becomes a gloriously hilarious little bit. With vibrant facial expressions, particularly during “I’m All Alone” and lovely vocals to back up Arthur (Phil Gallagher) in this number, Dieter proves that he’s far more than just chopped liver, earning him a place in the hearts of every Spam-fan in the house.
Gallagher is a robust addition to the cast, serving as the aloof King Arthur with a warm and rich sound. Characterized well for the ‘simply-stupid’ king, Gallagher brings a strong presence to the role and a welcomed vocal tone, particularly during “All For One” and “I’m All Alone.” Playing well against the Lady of the Lake (Eileen Keenan), he finds those little moments of doting chemistry to draw out the love story element of the pair in this parody of musical theatre. Keenan, who’s finest moment comes during her powerhouse belt of “The Diva’s Lament”, brings a celestial speaking voice to the role as well, making her appear every bit the stuff of legends that Arthur makes her out to be. Keenan shares a gloriously campy duet with Sir Galahad (David Jennings) in “The Song That Goes Like This” and the pair run away with the comedic nuances of this number in spades.
Jennings, whose classical send is the perfect elemental blend for the aforementioned duet, really lays into that number with a heightened sense of camp and over-the-top melodramatical theatricality, milking the song for all of its funniest moments. His role as Galahad is surpassed only by his spastically fury-driven portrayal of Herbert’s Father, wherein he stomps about the stage in a full rage of ridiculousness, barking at the guards (Dieter and Burch) until the scene implodes with the arrival of Lancelot (Flickinger) and it all goes to hilarious hell in a handbasket from there. There can be no further commentary on Jennings’ third appearance in the show for fear of spoilers, needless to say he walks away from it with just a flesh wound.
On the whole the talent is situated in mostly the right places and the production is entertaining, with a decent pace that keeps the audience engaged with what’s happening. Enjoy the mighty quest for the holy grail this summer at Cockpit in Court and if you’re especially lucky you might just find yourself attending a Broadway wedding!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
Spamalot plays through July 31, 2016 at Cockpit in Court— on the main stage of the Theatre Building of the Community College of Baltimore County Essex Campus located at 7201 Rossville Boulevard in Rosedale, MD. For tickets please call the box office at (443) 840-2787 or purchase them online.