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Spamalot

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Adapted from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot is an inspired bit of lunacy from Python cast mate Eric Idle, who wrote the book, music (collaborating with John du Prez), and lyrics for this Tony-award winning musical. Similar to the film, with most of the best of the comic gags retained, it diverges some from the storyline and manages to create a fresh take on the Arthurian legend.

A narrator (Daniel Dawson) appears on stage, giving a bit of historical background on England, which is followed by a group of Finns dancing a merry folk dance. Incensed, the narrator rebukes the group for misunderstanding that he said England, not Finland. Cut to medieval England, and Arthur and his servant, Patsy, gallop in, not on horseback, but with Patsy banging two coconut shells together to simulate the sound. What follows is a debate on how those cocoanut shells got to England between two guards atop castle walls. Arthur leaves in disgust.

This scene, long an audience favorite, sets the stage for the silly, improbable encounters Arthur (Martin Kildare) and Patsy (Erik Scott Romney) have along the way as they try to enlist knights for the Round Table. Soon Sir Lancelot (Marc Ginsburg), Sir Dennis Galahad (Nick Tubbs), Sir Bedevere (Tyler Stouffer), and Sir Robin (Jeff Skowron) become principals in the journey through the kingdom. The Lady of the Lake (Chelle Denton) is also very much present as the story progresses.

Attempting to explicate the storyline would probably confuse those who have not been long-time fans and is unnecessary for the vast majority of audience members who know the story and anticipate the antics as each scene unfolds. Suffice it to say that it is a clever parody of legends, in general, and Arthur and Camelot, in particular.

Notable is the ensemble of Michelle Benton, Soleil Garcia, Leslie Miller, Adrian Mustain, Dylan Pass, Rile Reavis, Mark C. Reis, Jean Schroeder, Erich Schroeder, Joe Stein, Paul Stein, and Dance Captain Jane Papageorge. They play, among others, Laker girls, villagers, can-can dancers, knights, castle guards, sentries, and minstrels. They add the requisite Broadway-style musical numbers and flesh out the colorful excitement that is created by a large-cast production.

A highlight is an encounter with the Black Knight (Tubbs), who bars Arthur from passing and engages in a duel in which he loses both arms and legs but declares the encounter a draw. Also, Dawson plays a delightfully effeminate Sir Herbert, who is the victim of a forced marriage by his father (Tubbs again). Skowron nearly steals the show as a not-so-brave knight, particularly in his "Brave Sir Robin" and "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" numbers.

Also inspired is Denton, who has a powerful set of pipes and delivers a wonderfully funny "Diva's Lament," mourning her lack of stage time.She also joins Tubbs for  "The Song that Goes Like This," a take-off on a classic love song obligatory in many musicals. Kildare is a strong and dynamic Arthur.

Another comic number by Kildare and Romney that is an audience pleaser is the patently untrue "I'm All Alone." Romney is droll as he accompanies Arthur. Ginsburg is also a scene stealer as he strips down and comes out as the gay Lancelot, and Stouffer is amusing as Dennis's mother.

The signature song of the musical "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is upbeat and includes Arthur, Patsy, and various knights. It is reprised at curtain call with delighted audience participation.

Enhancing the entire production is the orchestra directed and conducted by David Lamoureux. Casey Nicholaw's original Broadway choreography is well executed by Carol Bentley, aided by associate director/choreographer Billy Sprague, Jr. Wig design by Peter Herman and make-up design by Denice Paxton are also effective.

This is a thoroughly well done production by 3-D Theatricals, who handle large scale musicals effortlessly and to great effect. This endeavor credits a strong technical cast: set and costume design by Tim Hatley; lighting design by Jean-Yves Tessier; sound design by Julie Ferrin; and additional projection design by Andrew Nagy.

The production achieves all the necessary wit and satire created in the original Broadway show that has made it an audience favorite. Well cast, it is a strong closer for the company in its 8th season.

 

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.