Monty Python's Spamalot

The cast has talent, but the Georgetown Palace version of this Python musical suffers from a lack of smooth execution

<i>Monty Python's Spamalot</i>
Courtesy of Elaine Funk

The Austin area seems to be enjoying its fair share of movies-turned-plays lately, what with the recent productions of The Graduate and Clue. Another in this lineup is Monty Python's Spamalot, based on the beloved Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The 1975 film is a comedy classic, irreverently incorporating slapstick and ridiculous hijinks into its skewed retelling of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The stage adaptation borrows some of the more famous and quotable scenes from the film while also poking fun at the tropes of musical theatre. Though some may see it as a cheap laugh, it makes for a fun time – unfortunately, the Georgetown Palace Theater version suffers from a lack of smooth execution.

Overall, many of this production's elements lack the tightness necessary to fully realize the story. Faith Castaneda's lighting provides little variation and is far too weak, making it difficult to see all of the action. Also, many of the important moments occur in a spotlight, but the actors end up just outside of it, their faces obscured entirely. The live instrumentation, while impressive, overpowers the singers most of the time, which makes it very difficult to glean whatever thin plot line the show provides. Jesee Smart's choreography feels repetitive, and though the chorus seems like a talented group of dancers, the final product comes across as under-rehearsed. This sloppy execution also affects many of the show's jokes; tighter comic timing would not only speed the production's pace but probably also garner more enthusiasm from the audience.

That said, a few stars manage to shine brightly in an otherwise dim production. Key among them is Emily Niswonger as the Lady of the Lake, whose talents as an actress and singer resonate through each of her scenes. Alas, this knights' tale affords little room for female characters, and her character is notably absent throughout much of the show. (The song in which she comments on this is a highlight of the production.) Phil Rodriguez as Sir Lancelot benefits from crisp comic timing and commands his songs with gusto. Aaron Crowley also provides some of the show's funniest moments, especially as Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert. Matt Gauck as Patsy, King Arthur's coconut-clapping assistant, also gives a fine performance.

Even if Monty Python-style humor isn't exactly your cup of tea, the self-aware nature of Spamalot still might win you over. Though I thought director Ron Watson and the cast managed to convey this for the most part, certain jokes (mentions of New York, Broadway, and gay marriage) seemed lost on the crowd the afternoon I was in attendance. Hopefully, the lax timing and production elements will tighten up as the run continues. The main players are certainly talented, and with a bit more work, this team could well provide audiences with a royally good time.

Monty Python's Spamalot

Georgetown Palace Theater, 810 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown, 512/869-7469
Through May 17
Running time: 2 hr., 10 min.

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Georgetown Palace Theater, Ron Watson, Jesee Smart, Faith Castaneda, Emily Niswonger, Phil Rodriguez, Aaron Crowley, Matt Gauck

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