Monday, May 12, 2014

Ambitious Spam

Photo from Cutting Hall’s Facebook page.

Theatre Nebula brings some Anglo-flavored silliness to Cutting Hall in Palatine with its performance of Monty Python’s Spamalot. The musical, with a book and lyrics by Python member Eric Idle and music by John De Prez and Idle, won three Tony Awards on Broadway, and had successful runs in Chicago and other cities. It’s quite a challenge for a local theatre company, but the Chicago-based Theatre Nebula, backed by an eight-piece orchestra, succeeds with an energetic and professional production. Monty Python’s Spamalot opened at Cutting Hall this past Saturday night, and runs through Sunday, June 15th.

There are 17 cast members involved with director Kevin Wiczer’s bustling rendition, and just about everyone takes on multiple roles. That’s not really noticeable, thanks to Lisa Hale’s clever costumes and the performers’ inventiveness. Tim Koll, for example, skillfully plays the nerdy Historian; the preening Dennis Galahad; the eternally combative Black Knight; and Prince Herbert’s huge-tracks-of-land seeking father. Adam Kasprowicz hilariously tackles the roles of Lancelot; the French Taunter; the chief Knight Of Ni; and Tim The Enchanter.

This production has a powerfully voiced Lady Of The Lake in Denise Tamburrino, which is essential since the role would lose its satiric bite without a diva who can be simultaneously impressive and ridiculously over the top. As the perpetually disrespected King Arthur, Chuck Sisson adroitly mixes a royal air with seething frustration, and despite the constant presence of Krist Neumann’s engaging Patsy—loneliness. Anthony Mele as Sir Robin is funny throughout, and sails effortlessly though one of the most elaborate and best numbers, “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway.”

Amanda Diamond, Erin O’Leary, Kerry McGee, Dayna Palya, Laura Williams, and JZ Zaeske are not only appealing in choreographer Kara Williams’ sexy song and dance numbers, they get laughs with small roles such as the Knights of Ni, the French Guards, and Tim’s minions. Kudos also go to Tyler Callahan who kicks off the show’s musical madness with a lively “I’m Not Dead Yet,” and plays a variety of parts, including the romantically starved Prince Herbert.

Finally, a round of applause to Eric Idle, who took a decades-old film he had made with his fellow Pythons and gave it an whole new existence. My wife Pam and I saw Monty Pythons Spamalot when it first came to Chicago years ago with its all-star cast of Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, Hank Azaria, and others. Theatre Nebula can’t match the firepower of that production, but fans of this zany musical should find a lot to like at Cutting Hall.

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