Laughs abound in Sinclair Community College’s breezy, highly entertaining production of Eric Idle and John Du Prez’s 2005 Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” “lovingly ripped off” from the cult classic 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
This boldly irreverent and witty showcase, grounded in broad, silly British humor with playful nods to pop culture and musical theater conventions, follows the misadventures of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in their kooky quest for the Holy Grail. Avid Python fans will be pleased that many familiar characters and sequences remain intact from the sight of killer rabbits and flying cows to the nastiness of taunting Frenchmen and the peculiar desires of the Knights of Ni. However, Idle and Du Prez’s critical Act Two decision to stray from the film’s framework and push the envelope with jabs targeted at the Jewish and gay community is more jarring and deflating than hysterical, particularly since “Spamalot” has moved on from the comforts of a diversified Broadway audience. Regardless, guest director Gina Kleesattel (responsible for reenergizing musical theater at the University of Dayton with notable productions of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Bat Boy” and “Urinetown”) certainly keeps the action crisp, fluid, fast-paced and lighthearted, which is all you can ask for a show that doesn’t rely on plot and treats absurdity as the norm.
The uniformly terrific, male-dominated cast, a welcomed blend of Sinclair and University of Dayton performers, is led by Skyler McNeely, who brings a delightful amount of self-effacing charm and cluelessness to his plum role of King Arthur. The vocally alluring Natalie Sanders, who memorably portrayed Jesus in Sinclair’s “Godspell” last season, solidly returns as amusing diva Lady of the Lake, a new addition to the Python universe that motivates Arthur and his loyal followers with soulful appeal. Stephen Kallenberg (Sir Robin) greatly impresses in the energetic “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” The handsome, versatile Chris Delanis winningly tackles an assortment of roles including Sir Lancelot, the French Taunter and the Knight of Ni. Michael Dean Conley oozes pompous swagger as Sir Galahad and shares one of his best moments opposite Sanders in the inspired “Phantom of the Opera” parody “The Song That Goes Like This.” Patrick Greco is an amiably understated Sir Bedevere. CJ Suchtya delivers one of his strongest performances as Arthur’s devoted Patsy, particularly joining McNeely for fine renditions of the comical duet “I’m All Alone” and the upbeat “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Additional featured support stems from Bryan Bryk (gleefully leading “I Am Not Dead Yet” as Not Dead Fred), John Dunn (a standout in Sinclair’s “The Laramie Project” whose pleasant evolution continues as the Historian and other roles), and the pitch-perfect Brennan Paulin as the sheltered and demure Prince Herbert. Effective ensemble players include AJ Breslin, Tray Shelton, Anna Sheldon, Aeriel Aniballi, Jasmine Barrett, Maggie Carroll, Samantha Creech, Jennifer Smith and Coartney Freeland.
The wacky world of “Spamalot,” encompassing medieval England with a pinch of Las Vegas and Studio 54 for extra measure, is colorfully and atmospherically first-rate thanks to scenic designer Terry Stump, costumer Kathleen Hotmer, lighting designer Joe Beumer (particularly heightening Sanders’ dynamic rendition of “The Diva’s Lament”), sound designer Dan Brunk and property designer Jennifer Kramer. Rodney Veal’s flavorful choreography is an exuberantly fun mixture of soft-shoe, cheerleading, disco and old-fashioned Broadway showmanship. Daniel Greene provides music direction, but Dr. Kenneth Kohlenberg leads a wonderful orchestra that is an added plus to what is surely one of the best musicals Sinclair has produced.
“Monty Python’s Spamalot” continues through Oct. 12 at Sinclair Community College, Blair Hall Theatre, Building 2, 444 W. Third St., Dayton. Performances are today at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Act One: 55 minutes; Act Two: 65 minutes. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. All Thursday tickets (Downtown Dayton Thursday Night) cost an additional $5 each and include pre-show appetizers and cash bar beginning at 6 p.m. in the Blair Hall Theatre lobby. For tickets or more information, call (937) 512-2808 or visit www.sinclair.edu/tickets.