I was never a Monty Python fan. Despite my affection for all things English, little of the comedy that made it to St. Louis called to me. It wasn't until a trip to South America with a group of wine writers that I was truly introduced, with a group in the back of our wee bus doing Python skits from memory. Then Joe and I walked (there was a transit strike) from 20th Street and 3rd Avenue to Broadway to see Spamalot about 2 months after it opened, and I was hooked.
So I didn't approach the Muny's opening production (yes, Mike Isaacson, of its 95th season!) without anticipation. Because of the deluge that had gotten stuck in the sky over us (how Pythonian), there was no dress rehearsal, no tech rehearsal. The Show Must Go On. And it did, despite glitches in the Jumbotron that's the rear wall of the stage, and some lighting problems.
The way to explain Spamalot is silliness, utter silliness. Some of the lines are R-rated, but I can't imagine contemporary teenagers (with whom I have spent much time recently) would be shocked. Plenty of folks opening night were under 30, a joyous thing in a world where theater audiences' average age is continuing to rise precipitously.
Arthur, King of the Britons, is played by John O'Herley, whose experience in the role shows with his ease and presence and what appears a good ability to ad lib some pretty funny stuff. Luscious Michele Ragusa gives a warmness to the Lady of the Lake that differs from some more Ice Queen-y interpretations, and it fits well. All the cast and director Denis Jones have taken a comedy that traditionally relied much on verbal jokes and facial expression and translated it to the un-intimate surroundings, showing off great timing, a sound system that was almost perfect, and broader physical comedy. It works wonderfully well.
A great start to the season. Let's hope for less rain on Monday afternoons and that the new fans make us all happier.
Spamalot opened Monday at the Muny in Forest Park and will run through Sunday June 23.