Concordia's 'Spamalot' is hilariously irreverent

And you've still got one more weekend to catch it

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By Doug Deuchler

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The Artists of Concordia Theatre have mounted an outrageous, hilarious, and thoroughly enjoyable production of Monty Python's Spamalot. This hugely irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend gets sillier and sillier as the show progresses. 

Director Andrew Pederson's delightfully demented cast are all fearlessly willing to go completely over the top. Their infectious energy abounds in a true ensemble production. This is a really fun show featuring an accomplished, hard-working cast, an upbeat score with clever lyrics, and a slew of raucous sketches. 

A decade or so ago, a series of popular Broadway shows were adaptations of box-office-tested movies, recycled as musical comedies. This is one of the better offerings from that trend. Monty Python alum Eric Idle revisited and reimagined the cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). He reworked the satiric film, then set it to music that he and John DuPrez wrote. When the show played on Broadway in 2005, it received 14 Tony nominations and won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The Monty Python troupe really revolutionized sketch comedy in the '70s. This fractured tale — the quest of King Arthur and his ditsy knights for the Holy Grail — is a series of comic sketches all tied together with songs. There's no traditional boy-meets-girl musical storyline but rather a string of situation skits and gags rather than traditional plot progression. There's even a further quest: bringing the whole medieval entourage to the enchanted kingdom called Broadway. It makes no sense, of course, but it's virtually a non-stop laugh riot. 

Jon Rusche plays stoic King Arthur. He and his lovable, put-upon sidekick Patsy, played by Drew Wiggenhorn, prance about the stage on imaginary horses. Wiggenhorn is incredibly funny, creating the clip-clop of the horses' hooves by hitting coconut halves together. He also introduces the joyful song, "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life."

Many of the principal actors play multiple roles. Joshua Bomba, for instance, plays both the flatulent Sir Bedevere and Galahad's mother. 

Matt Bender is always fun to watch as Sir Lancelot, who has a hidden feminine side. Bender's a very strong, expressive actor.

There's a steady stream of sightgags, such as when the Black Knight (Eamon McInerney) gets sliced down to just a torso in a comic duel but he still carries on, refusing to concede defeat even when all his limbs have been hacked off. 

None of the comedy is truly vulgar, but be forewarned there are fart jokes, gay situations, and lots of other crude, immature gags that seem like they might have been lifted from a middle-school cafeteria. One of my favorite numbers was a non-p.c. show-stopper called "You Won't Succeed On Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)." 

Rachel Hamrick sings beautifully in the pivotal role of the beautiful Lady of the Lake, and at one point morphs from an ethereal fairy creature into a lounge-singing diva. Hamricks's got a great voice and a nice comic touch.

The Lady of the Lake's "Laker Girls" sang and danced a number of times in styles ranging from Busby Berkeley/Ziegfeld Follies with ostrich fans to a rocking 1950s tap number. These chorus cuties, alas, are not mentioned by name in the program.

The deftly executed choreography is by Ashlee Wasmund. Amanda Schmidt is the dance captain.

There are too many cast members to mention, but a few who particularly shine are Jake Jansen as Sir Robin, Mary Koch as Sir Galahad, Kaycee Jordan as the Historian, Christian Stuckemeyer as Not Dead Fred, and, in a variety of roles but especially good as the Killer Rabbit, Nate Perez. 

The complicated visual design, which included animated projections and a ton of sound cues, could have potentially become a technical nightmare. But there were no noticeable glitches on opening night.

The whimsical costumes are by Robert S. Kuhn. The set design is by Jame McGhan. The stage manager is Ryan Kenney.

Though the production budget is undoubtedly tight, there is clearly very imaginative use of home-made props and set pieces. 

The musical director is William Underwood. The six member (offstage) band includes Underwood, Deb Johnson, Randy Glancy, Nick Anderson, Paul Ohde, and Diane Hansen.

Monty Python's Spamalot is playing one more weekend at the Madison Street Theatre in Oak Park. This Concordia University production is well-paced and outrageously goofy. 

If you're looking for some silly escapism, here's the ticket for you. 

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