Finland, though seen as a country that might be ripe for fishing, faces certain challenges well known by locals, but generally unnoticed by the rest of the world.
First of all, Finland is actually far enough North to have arctic waters, which means for the wintery part of their year, fisherman have to use hooks, traps, and nets in icy waters. Most of the fish that they catch from the sea are herring, though Finland has a great inland culture of recreational fishing. Recreational fishers tend to catch a different type of herring.
Oh wait. This was a show about England. Sorry about that. (Editor’s Note: We have sacked the original reviewer. *SIGH* I’m just going to do this myself.)
Monty Python and The Holy Grail is a movie that shaped multiple generations- and for many fans like myself, who grew up reciting the routines at high school lunch tables (yeah… I wasn’t exactly popular in high school…), it is going to be difficult to find something that will equal the original movie. Luckily, in 2004, it was turned into a musical by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, and the musical very much captures the spirit of the movie for the stage. In his director’s note, Jeffery Seneca mentions that what originally made him want to direct Spamalot was “it’s fun”. In these humorless times, “if we can’t sit together and laugh at the absurdity of it all, then where does that leave us?” And watching their opening weekend, it was very obvious to me that every single person on stage shared in the fun, and were 100% in on the joke.
LTVB’s Spamalot has an amazing ensemble who blend together perfectly. That being said, there are typically stand out performers in every show. Stealing the show for me was Sam Peterson’s Patsy- from his small choices (like burning himself on an electric candle as he was cleaning it up), to his musically being a near dead-ringer for Eric Idle leading “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, every moment he had onstage was simply fun to watch. Two others in the cast who were very much appreciated by this fan were Richard Merrick and Jonah Slobodkin, who managed to bring just enough of themselves into the swallows/coconut and french taunting scenes to keep them true to the original while not being stuck in a rut with very familiar material. Alvan Bolling and Scott Rollins both completely nailed two of my favorite characters, and the award for having the most fun on stage definitely goes to Clifford Hoffman, who easily looked like he could have fit in with the original Monty Python cast, and made me laugh with every physical choice. Karen Buchheim and her dancers also deserve so much praise it won’t fit in this article- I don’t think I’ve seen that many strong dancers in one community theatre show in this area in a while. They really carry the show on their backs- I’ve also got a soft spot for a lot of people tap dancing at the same time, and don’t think we see enough of it in local community theatre around here. I wish I had time and space to compliment every cast member – Seneca put together a strong ensemble, and although there were times where occasionally someone was a little off time with their song, I’m certain the performances will only get stronger during the run.
It seems that it wasn’t only the cast who loved the source material. Stage manager Sarah Storminger had a few gag bits onstage, and she and her crew (in “medieval black run crew uniforms” that I was kinda super jealous of) ran a smooth show, which must have been a challenge to coordinate with so many moving parts. The majority of the set is a castle with a great stone paint treatment by Tom Coffey, and the moving parts of the castle work with smaller wagons to set each scene. Seneca and Alex Mason are credited with the scenic design, and the set combined with Jessica Benner’s props work together to pay homage to the Python aesthetic. I was also very impressed with the sheer simplicity of the technical gag for the Black Knight scene- it was, for me at least, a throwback to simple stage magic genius and suspension of disbelief that we tend to forget can be done with all the reliance on projections and high tech special effects people go for these days. Although there were a few sound issues at the beginning of the show (a little difficult to hear the actors when singing, though the mix seemed to get fixed as the performance went on), and a few lights that were focused a bit distractingly into the audiences’ eyes in scenes where the audience shouldn’t be lit, Mason’s lighting design and Matt Smith’s sound design served the show well, and I’m certain that the mix issues will be fixed as the run goes on and the ensemble and orchestra have more time together.
LTVB’s Spamalot is a strong show that keeps their concept and aesthetic from the cast to the design team even down to the program you are handed when you walk in the door. If you are a Python fan, I definitely suggest you see the show – they 100% did the original justice, and I sat there all night giggling like I was in high school again (it was sorely needed). If you aren’t a Python fan- go see it anyway- it’s a great musical comedy romp that plays on the genre’s tropes.
Spamalot runs at the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach through August 11. You can get tickets here while they last!