The Holy Grail is just the beginning. Let go with Spamalot at the Arts Center.

 

Spamalot LogoIt’s not important to be a Monty Python fan.  Spamalot, at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, is for anyone who feels that a giggle is just not enough.  It’s the kind of humor that never aims for less than sidesplitting.  Farcical, physical, absurd, outrageous, this is a trip away from the middle ages (lower case) and back to the times of your life when you and your friends didn’t care if you acted silly as long as the others laughed.  This is the funny that forgets you grew up.

If you think Broadway is heaven, you’ll love Spamalot.  If you think Broadway is silly, you’ll love Spamalot.  If you just like Broadway enough to let it in on a really good joke, you’ll love Spamalot.  In addition to a faithful redux of Monty Python And The Holy Grail, this musical lampoons musical theatre relentlessly.

No cow is sacredWest Side Story, Cats, Phantom, Chorus Line are just a

Steve Blanchard and Meredith Inglesby – onstage and off

Steve Blanchard and Meredith Inglesby – onstage and off

few of the legends that end up en brochette on the Spamalot lance.  Even the ways of Broadway, from the casts to the audiences to the songs, get roasted deliciously.

And though it’s five-star, Monty Python’s Spamalot is also a home-cooked meal.  Hilton Head Island native Meredith Inglesby and her husband, Steve Blanchard play the leads, The Lady of the Lake and King Arthur.  Steve and Meredith met in the long-running Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, playing the Beast and Babette, respectively.  Meredith has returned to the Island to perform in last summer’s SHOUT! The Mod Musical and in this year’s Spring Gala at the Arts Center.

Jeffrey Jeffrey Watkins and Meredith Inglesby get medieval  on “The Song That Goes Like This.”

Jeffrey Watkins and Meredith Inglesby get medieval on “The Song That Goes Like This.”

 

Meredith is simply unique, a Hilton Head Prep graduate and a member of the original Broadway cast of The Little Mermaid.  Steve is a powerful presence, with swashbuckling Broadway credits in Camelot and The Three Musketeers among others.  The way they enjoy this comedy interlude is a big part of the feeling that envelops the Arts Center audiences.  They are evidently having the time of their lives.  Meredith’s versatility, in particular, is something to watch.

Jeffrey Watkins left me gasping for breath, he was so funny transforming

Steve Blanchard and Bill Bateman pioneer new transportation forms – including coconuts.

Steve Blanchard and Bill Bateman pioneer new transportation forms – including coconuts.

from the working class Dennis to Sir Galahad, then morphing into The Black Knight and Prince Herbert’s (tyrannical) Father.

If my friend Jacob Preston is “Bluffton’s tallest potter,” then Jeffrey Watkins is surely Bluffton’s only veteran of Les Miserable on Broadway.  He stunned audiences recently in South Carolina Rep’s production of Venus In Fur.  After such an intense, dramatic role it is doubly impressive to see how completely Jeffrey can let go with a highly skilled version of silly in Monty Python’s Spamalot.

“We're knights of the Round Table.  We dance when e’re we’re able.”

“We’re knights of the Round Table. We dance when e’re we’re able.”

Adopted Hilton Head Islanders are a big part of Spamalot, too.  Director Casey Colgan goes all the way back to Dunnegan’s Ally days, commuting from New York City.  The other day Casey mentioned how many shows he’s directed here, and I wasn’t in a place to write it down.  I think it was north of 40.  He’s our most productive New York connection, and somehow he still leaves Hilton Head Island audiences wanting more.

We can only hope that choreographer Nic Thompson becomes another

“Find Your Grail.”  Just in case the play – or life – needs a point

“Find Your Grail.” Just in case the play – or life – needs a point

Broadway pipeline.  Nic has performed at the Arts Center in Camelot, The Producers, Fiddler on the Roof and A Chorus Line.  On Broadway, Nic most recently danced in Mary Poppins.  His hand in the theatre is multitalented and his impact on a show grows in ways that are a pleasure to be around for.

Bill Bateman returns to the Arts Center in Spamalot, and what a welcome return!  At the Arts Center Bill has lit up Camelot, Damn Yankees, 42nd Street and Mame.  Stars from Carol Channing to Patti Lupone have wanted Bill around for the long haul in Broadway productions of Hello Dolly!, Peter Pan and Gypsy.  His bio in Playbill always concludes with, “Lucky is the man who loves his work,” and that’s what it’s like to work with Bill.

The photo isn't sideways.  But the famous “French taunts” certainly are.

The photo isn’t sideways. But the famous “French taunts” certainly are.

 

 

 

 

A prospective perennial for the Arts Center is Rich Binning, returning as a Knight and ensemble player in Spamalot.  Rich appeared here first in How To Succeed in Business, then in Anything Goes, where he understudied Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.  Rich is King Arthur’s understudy in Spamalot, and the natural way he delivers a first-class performance in the ensemble suggests there’s much more to come, here and in his home turf of New York.

And the new faces!  Spamalot is rich with talent.  The principals play multiple characters, and everyone has facets to flash, from the denizens of “a dark – and very expensive – forest” to the dancers of Vegas, baby.

So Spamalot is for a lot more than Python fans.  Although . . .

Monty Python might be described as sophomoric humor for smart people, and it became perhaps the biggest cult in comedy.  Twenty years ago, WNET Channel 13, the NYC public television station that broke Monty Python’s Flying Circus to its first U.S. audience, ran a 20th Anniversary show.  (Yes, 20 + 20.  It’s hardly an untested art form.)  In one of the 20th Anniversary bits, a hidden camera team accosted New Yorkers from every walk of life on the sidewalks and asked them if they knew “The Lumberjack Song.”

After 40 years in America - and nine on Broadway – Monty Python’s Spamalot is modestly optimistic.  Certainly “Not Dead Yet.”

After 40 years in America – and nine on Broadway – Monty Python’s Spamalot is modestly optimistic. Certainly “Not Dead Yet.”

Dozens and scores and crowds of people in suits, coveralls, jeans, shorts,

little black dresses, all chimed in with “I’m a lumberjack and I’m O.K. . . . “  Man and woman, young and old, rich and poor, they sang it as couples, as co-workers, as strangers.  They sang it solo.  It looked as if no one had stayed aloof from Monty Python.  (The carpenter shop backstage at the Arts Center has had a poster of the Ministry Of Silly Walks sketch on its door for years.)

But the Spamalot jokes are so very far from inside.  They are the outside-est, most inviting, most accessible kind of humor.  If you can let go at all, or if you just want to, this is the show.  You’ll laugh for two hours.

Tickets to Spamalot are going fast.  Get yours now at www.artshhi.com or call the box office 843-842-2787.