“I am Arthur, King of the Britons!” The loud and sonorous voice of Christopher Schultz rang through the audience at the Academy Playhouse in Orleans on Friday in the opening night of “Spamalot.” Based on the film “Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” the musical comedy included all of the classic Monty Python scenes, coconuts, a killer rabbit, an intriguing discussion of African versus European swallows, and of course the dreaded Knights Who Say Ni.
Even with the inclusion of these famous scenes and the preservation of much of the original movie script, “Spamalot” introduces its own elements to seamlessly transform the story of King Arthur and his Knights from a movie-style format to a classical Broadway show. Modern elements are incorporated into the script that keep the story fresh, such as a group of peppy Laker Girls, a parody of songs that typically appear in every Broadway show, and a even a reference to Britney Spears.
Additionally, the Lady of the Lake, played by Sara Sneed, joins the story to star alongside King Arthur, played by Schultz. The two actors arguably stole the show. Schultz exuded confidence and poise in his role as King Arthur, with a booming voice and skillful singing to boot. Sneed’s singing voice was not only impressive but also comical. She portrayed the diva-like role believably and playfully. In one memorable scene, she commanded the stage with large expressive eyes as her character complained of not getting enough stage time. The inclusion of Sneed’s character not only turns the story into a hilarious spoof of a Broadway musical but also provides the story with the one element the original film lacked: a leading female role.
A talented band accompanied the actors from beginning to end, with Chris Morris on piano, Will Brooks on drums and bass players Dick Stocks (performing Friday to Sunday) and Don Sanzo (performing Tuesday to Thursday). Morris is also the show’s music director. The live music helped to bring the story to life even more and accompanied the actor’s performances perfectly.
Although the size of the stage was limited, the cast used the space creatively. A large screen filled the backdrop, which at various moments throughout the performance displayed such images as God, storm clouds, and “a dark and extremely expensive forest.”
The production included a mere 11 actors and five crewmembers. Despite these small numbers, the cast and crew were masterful at producing a show that kept the audience’s attention from start to finish. Many actors played more than one role, like Justin Torrellas who seamlessly transitioned from the cowardly Sir Robin to a rude Frenchman, and Sean Whalen who juggled the roles of the Historian, Not-Dead-Fred and Herbert, the forlorn prince whose hilariously bad singing provided a refreshing counterpart to the powerful voices of Schultz and Sneed.
This brilliant cast of volunteer actors brought the story of King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail back to life. They took on the difficult task of transforming a beloved classic into a hilarious musical comedy, able to be enjoyed by people of all ages. Executed with wit by a talented cast that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this encore presentation of the Academy's “Spamalot” is sure to keep you laughing from beginning to end. Whether you are new to the classic tale or have seen “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” countless times before, this Academy Playhouse production is a must-see for the summer.
At the Academy of Performing Arts, Orleans
Through July 15
Information and reservations: 508–255-1963, www.apacape.org.