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Spamalot

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Spamalot is the musical comedy that is, as its creators assert, “lovingly ripped off” from 1975’s film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Monty Python player Eric Idle wrote the book and lyrics to the stage show, whereas John Du Perez composed its score. In fact, the title comes from a phrase in the movie: “We eat ham, and jam and spam a lot.”

The Broadway production premiered under the direction of Mike Nichols in 2005 and went on to earn 14 Tony Award nominations; it won three of them, including the trophy for Best Musical. It ran for 1,500 performances, grossed $175 million and was seen by more than two million theatergoers.

Now Spamalot, produced by Long Beach’s Musical Theatre West, is making its regional debut at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, though July 15. It is a sweet theatrical treat to see this effort so completely fulfilled by MTW’s cast and crew. Decisively directed by Steven Glaudini, with timely musical direction by John Gauldini and Billy Sprague, Jr.', lively recreation of Casey Nicholaw’s original choreography – this Spamalot is more fun than a barrel of slapsticks.

Loosely inspired by the Arthurian Legend, Spamalot also includes send-ups of Broadway theater staples such as Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and Man of La Mancha. One musical number, "The Song That Goes Like This", is a piercing parody of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most cloying compositions, and it is a high point in this musical comedy.

As King Arthur, Davis Gaines is a charismatic delight. Gaines hits his stride early on with "King Arthur’s Song" and maintains focus and energy throughout the two and-a-half hour production. With charm, comedic clarity, and a moat full of bonhomie, Gaines anchors this staging with the magnitude of his star power.

What’s more, Gaines is given great support by a huge cast of superlative players.

Larry Rabin, as Sir Robin, is, in his comedic inclinations, reminiscent of Gene Wilder. Rabin’s rendition of "You Won’t Succeed on Broadway" is an exuberant example of his performance power and well-oiled funny-bone.

Dan Callaway’s deadpan deliveries as Dennis, who is soon knighted by Arthur as Sir Galahad, are pricelessly amusing. Callaway’s transformation from peasant radical to gallant knighthood provides for an impressive, dimensional characterization.

Zachary Ford as Sir Lancelot is an unexpected pleasure. But it is his turn as a taunting French guard that nearly steals the scene.

Indeed, the entire cast and ensemble here are up to the high measure that MTW audiences have come to expect of this long-enduring company. For instance, as the Historian who narrates parts of the story, Richard Israel is fun to watch and hear, as are Danny Stiles and Jamie Torcellini in various roles.

But it is Tami Tappan Damiano as The Lady of the Lake whose vocal range, musical abilities, and feel for humor make her, along with Davis Gaines, the headliner of this effort.

Using the original Broadway set and costumes (costumes are coordinated by Claire Townsend, with costume and set designs by Tim Hatley), and with lighting by Steven Young, a soundscape provided by Julie Ferrin – as well as an extraordinary projection design by Elaine J. McArthy – this trip back to the 900s A.D., anachronisms and all, provide for a hilariously bawdy search for the so-called Holy Grail.

Spamalot, a Musical Theatre West production, continues at the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts – 6200 Atherton Street, Long Beach – through July 15. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For reservations, dial (562) 856 – 1999 x 4. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.musical.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.