Review: Grand scores with ‘Spamalot!’



The Grand’s first community theater production in years, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” has been very well received. The show continues for two more weekends. PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

The Grand’s first community theater production in years, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” has been very well received. The show continues for two more weekends. PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

It has been a long, long time since The Grand Auditorium – once a shining example of community theater at its best – has produced it’s own full-scale musical performance.

Well, the wait is over. Not only is The Grand back in the business of making shows, it is demonstrating with its current production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which opened last weekend, just what we have been missing all these years.

From the moment King Arthur galloped on stage on his invisible steed, accompanied by his loyal squire Patsy providing the horsey sound effects with coconut shells, it was clear we were all in for a jolly good time.

Classic Monty Python fans – you know those folks who will suddenly assume a cockney accent and announce “I’m not dead yet” or a bad French accent to exclaim “I fart in your general direction” – will be thrilled to rejoin King Arthur and his motley crew of knights on their quest for the Holy Grail. Those who have somehow missed this celebrated gang of British comics led by Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam on TV and film are in for a wild ride.

The quest in question is constantly derailed by smart alecky castle guards who are more interested in whether a five ounce sparrow can carry a one pound coconut than opening the gates for their king; social activist peasants; rude French soldiers; the plague; a delusional black knight; a watery tart; the shrubbery loving Knights of Nih; and a killer rabbit.

As Arthur, Bernard Hope is the perfect combo of regal pomposity and cluelessness as he prances about on his pretend horse trying to explain to his subjects why they should obey their king. He can sing, too. His mournful song “I’m All Alone” is both tunefully sung and hilarious, as his squire Patsy (the marvelous Gaylen Smith), who hasn’t left his side for a moment, makes “what am I chopped liver?” moues and asides throughout.

His nincompoop trio of Knights of the Round Table – the not so brave, Sir Robin (the ever-excellent Robin Jones); the pugnacious and impossibly golden haired Galahad (the terrific Jonathon Wood) and the pretty Lancelot (the fetching Patrick Harris) – are a scream. They are aided and abetted in their misadventures by an equally cretinous crew of characters played by Steve Robbins, Randy Hunt, Ron Lisnet, Aiden Pasha, Sam Plattus, Tim Searchfield and Paul Allen. He, by the by, with his Cheshire cat grin, is the real stand out here as both Sir Robin’s bloody-minded balladeer and the Poncey Prince Herbert.

But the true ringer in this zinger of a show is Jillie Mae Eddy, who plays the Lady of the Lake.

While the playbill gives an impressive list of Ms. Eddy’s theatrical training, earned degrees and professional accomplishments as an actor, playwright, composer and musician, it does not say how she ended up in this amateur community production. Whether she was hired or just wandered off the street into an audition is unimportant. She is spectacular. A vision in shimmering blue, her voice fills the auditorium (without amplification) and makes the one serious song in the play, “Find Your Grail,” moving and memorable. Her duet with Galahad, “The Song that Goes Like This,” is the perfect parody of that sort of smarmy romantic musical number.

The Lady’s pep squad of “Laker Girls” played by Allison Bankson, Ashley Callan, Berlynn Haupt and Laurie Schrieber are just as motley as the men in this show and just as fun to watch.

Thanks to some lively direction by Michael Weinstein, it is all fun to watch and even be a part of as the audience gets to join in on the iconic “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” At just over two hours, it is all over too soon.

The simple but effective Ken Stack designed set and effects work well,with special kudos to Garret Harris’s videography. The Stephanie Dumas costumes are good, especially for Arthur, Patsy and the Lady of the Lake. The small pit orchestra led by two amazingly versatile keyboards played by Scott Cleveland and Colin Graebert and featuring Lynette Woods’ evocative percussion and Phil Kell’s jazzy bass, is terrific.

Performances of Spamalot continue two more weekends:

Fridays, Oct. 24 and 31, and Saturdays, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, at 2 p.m.

Call 667-9500 or visit www.grandonline.org.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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