NEGAUNEE - The Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council has opened its summer season with "Spamalot." For those unfamiliar with the show the program says it best. "A new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.'"
Al Keefer has put together a rough troupe of actors that look at home on the Vista stage. Many leads are new-comers and there are some local favorites, as well. The production runs smoothly and Keefer found plenty of humor to work with, not only in staging but also with many of the technical aspects. Kudos to Keefer for accessing a strong crew of Ilean Green (costumes), Ryan Henry (lights and sound), and Emmye Wiig (hair and make-up) and the (scenic scroll).
The strange thing about "Spamalot" is its familiarity. If you're a Python fan then you're probably in that category who can quote the lines verbatim, and they are all in "Spamalot," but the really funny thing is that is - it doesn't matter.
One of the best parts of the show were the bits that had nothing to do with the film. The satirical "The Song That Goes Like This" performed by Sir Galahad (Jacob Laitinen) and the Lady of the Lake (Laura Nagle) was one of two highlights of the evening. In what was obviously a parody of essentially every ballad written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Laitinen is fun to watch and a joy to listen to. The other truly great show-stopper "The Diva's Lament." This is where The Lady of the Lake struts the stage complaining of being underused in the second act. Normally the part of the Lady of the Lake is portrayed as an Amazonian Nordic, the kind of woman a Viking might have as a figurehead on his invading ship. In this production, we have Miss Nagle, and she is anything but Nordic. Yet she makes the part her own in a way I could never have imagined; she plays her big song as an irritated-bordering-on-angry woman about to throw a hissy fit - and it works. Her voice and her ability to take command and be the center of attention when she's there, Nagle is one of the standouts of the production.
But the great thing in a show like "Spamalot" is even when you have a diva at its center, the ensemble can still shine. Brian McDonald, with his inquisitive eyebrows forever arching up, makes a solid Arthur who somehow grounds the cast. He's still a bumbling caricature of a British king, yet compared to the idiots around him he manages to carry a sense of dignity and even authority to the character. And his "All Alone" is pure fun.
Another show-stealing moment came from the Sir Robin (Kelsey Dillon) number "You Won't Succeed on Broadway." This brilliantly done routine poked fun at the Great White Way, and Dillon was one performer who was a pleasure to watch throughout the evening. Another was (Martha Joy Webster) as Arthur's trusty but goofy horse, playing the comic timing with ease. Last but not least, playing several roles is Brian Skewis, from his, "Not Dead Fred" to a Mime and Herbert. This young man is a true entertainer. The production is filled sight gags, spoofs and plenty of parody but what is fun, especially in a community theater setting is the ensemble of actors who play a variety of roles including: Kayla Billing, Steve Wiig and Brian Sundberg. The show ends on a happy note with the help of a missing character who will forever be remembered in Negaunee.
Fifty years ago, "Camelot," a work of genuine quality, couldn't even get a Tony nomination as best musical. In 2005, "Spamalot" not only got the nomination, but won the prize. It remains the most inconsequential shows ever to emerge victorious.
If you want to laugh a lot, get ye to the Vista in Negaunee. "Spamalot" performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $8 for students in high school and younger, and may be purchased at the Vista Theater Thrift Shop in Negaunee, Johnson Drugs in Ishpeming or Snowbound Books in Marquette. Tickets also will be available at the door. For more information, visit vistatheater.org or call 475-7188. And remember, "Always look on the bright side of life."
Editor's Note: Bobby Glenn Brown is an MFA graduate of UNLV and is known locally as an entertainer and director. He has performed in a variety of venues throughout the U.S.