Taking on such a legendary culture icon like Monty Python is always risky – particularly in musical form, but Eric Idle’s Spamalot, as performed by Musical Theatre Stafford is a brilliant take on it, blending some of the most famous characters from Monty Python and the Holy Grail with some new ones – superbly performed by a precociously talented cast.
The show opens confidently at the hands of Historian Helene Sandy who ushers the audience swiftly into the musical madness of Medieval England, and the madcap characters set the high-energy bar from the outset.
Featuring many of the beloved film characters the story follows King Arthur and his trusty squire Patsy as they travel in search of brave men to join him as Knights of the Round Table, and aid him in his quest to find the Holy Grail. Tom Gosling as Arthur gives a powerful performance with strong vocals – particularly in Find Your Grail and later I’m All Alone – and commands the stage with the authority befitting of the King of the Britons. Tracey Brough-Chesters steals the audience’s heart as faithful squire Patsy, with brilliant slapstick comedy and immaculate timing. Her performance was superlative from start to finish – no easy feat as the role encompasses very little dialogue.
One of the characters not from the film introduced by Idle for the stage show is Guinevere – the Lady of the Lake. Kelly-Marie Edwards is something of a secret weapon for MTS. Adapting her huge voice effortlessly to a range of styles, she brought the house down with her “lament” in the second act, Whatever Happened to my Part?
Also supporting were Mark Phizacklea as Lancelot and Jono Down as Prince Herbert who make a brilliant unexpected partnership, and the laughs came thick and fast in Act 2 as a result of their comic timing. Will Wood as Galahad and Matthew Hunt as Robin round out the merry band with their fast-paced dialogue and entertaining solo numbers, with Wood’s exceptional range in Song That Goes Like This being a particular highlight.
Special mention must go to Rob Mincher who – in many guises – never failed to have the audience in stitches as Dennis’ mother, the French Taunter and later as Herbert’s father. With impeccable timing and characterisation he breathed new life into the show upon each entrance.
The chorus were brilliantly used and brought the world of medieval England to life with a huge array of vibrant costumes and big production numbers bristling with energy, thanks to the choreography and direction of Rachel Millar and musical direction of Calum Robarts.
Musical Theatre Stafford made a bold choice with this ambitious parody, and despite a few opening night technical glitches – Python fans would have surely missed the cameo of Eric Idle as God when the projection failed – it seemed to be a resounding success with Holy Grail and musical theatre fans alike if comments from the audience are to go by. With word-of-mouth and the popularity of this revamped group increasing tickets are sure to be going fast - get down to see Spamalot, if you still can.
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