I first saw Spamalot in New York City back when I was in my twenties and not long after the show had first opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway. It was a bucket list item for me as a lifelong Monty Python fan and I was not disappointed. Tim Curry, Hank Azaria, Sara Ramirez, and the cast were fantastic and I truly felt like I was watching my beloved Pythons live! It was my first Broadway theatre experience and one that I will never forget.
Spamalot is the stage version of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (one my favorite movies! If you haven’t seen it yet – look it up!) with book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by John Du Prez. Some of the music in the show is from the source film like “Knights of the Road Table” while the most recognized tune “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” is from the other Python hit “Life of Brian”. The musical was a commercial and critical success and was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, bagging 3 which included Best Musical.
Needless to say when I heard they were opening Spamalot in Manila I was ecstatic. It’s been years but the material is as funny as the day it premiered. I guess that’s the beauty of Monty Python. The audiences may get older but the jokes never do.
The Manila show put on by Upstart Productions with Joel Trinidad and Nicky Trivino at the helm brought together a fun and lively cast who essayed their roles with just the right amount of high energy, comedic timing, and focused purpose required by the material. Despite the set being quite minimal it seemed to fit well with the production’s vision and allowed the cast to command the bulk of the attention throughout the performance.
From the moment the curtain rose on England (not Finland) the laughs kept on coming and my cheeks hurt by intermission. I was quite happy to see the cast tackle the oftentimes irreverent material boldly with no holding back. Directors Joel and Nicky had their vision of the show, but they also allowed the cast to create alongside them which is crucial in coming up with comedy that is delivered as authentically as this.
“Joel and Nicky trusted us to deliver that comedic fine line,” George Schulze, who plays Sir Robin, shared. “They helped us stay on point while giving us the freedom to play around and create at the same time. It was a good harmony of improv in a controlled environment.”
And the collaborative efforts of the entire team (choreography, lights, and sounds included) certainly paid off. The natural and comfortable interaction the cast had with one another was one of the most compelling reasons the comedy worked (after all, the Pythons were – first and foremost – good friends). Lorenz Martinez was hilarious as King Arthur and his rapport with Domileo Espejo (the coconut clapping Patsy) was spot on. Their performance of “I’m All Alone” had me in stitches.
Rachel Alejandro as the Lady of the Lake (and ethereal diva of the show) was fantastic! Though she had fewer scenes than Arthur and his merry knights she still fully maximized each appearance and song, beautifully showcasing her powerful vocal range and injecting her own brand of humor into her performance. And of course, she looked stunning in those breathtaking Francis Libiran gowns.
I really enjoyed watching the chemistry between the Knights. Noel Rayos is a seasoned veteran at delivering laughs and is so at home in over-the-top roles. His Lancelot/French Taunter/Tim/Knight of Ni were completely spot on. Reb Atadero was fantastic in a series of roles (most noticeably the minstrel and Prince Herbert) and was rewarded by non-stop laughter each time he stepped on stage. George Schulze as Sir Robin was funny and quite adept at truthfully conveying that dry British humor, as well as delivering an exceptional and hilarious performance as the Guard in Act II!
Bibo Reyes as the “strangely flatulent” Sir Bedevere is continuing to grow wonderfully in the comedic genre. And newcomer Dean Rosen as Sir Galahad gave a performance that really reminded me of the Pythons. I also remember noting that his accent was perfect! (I found out later on that he is, in fact, British and a lifelong Python fan).
Chino Veguillas transitions expertly and seamlessly in several roles and Rachel Coates, Roxy Aldiosa, and Edrei Tan complete the crazy and hardworking ensemble.
The show had a few tiny hiccups along the way, but it was premiere night and that’s to be expected. I feel that some jokes needed a bit of stillness to be truly appreciated and a pause once or twice would have helped audiences catch up (the show often times barrels on at breakneck speed which can make some jokes fly over people’s heads). There were some accent slips and many of the props look cartoonish, however I feel that’s done on purpose to add to the absurdity of the production. In case you forget, the show helpfully reminds you that the set is “very expensive”.
In the end, I truly enjoyed Upstart Production’s Spamalot. And I think it’s the perfect choice for anyone who wants a good long non-stop laugh fest and a fun night at the theatre. This show will be enjoyed by all and not just by Python fans (who you will note oftentimes laugh at the mere appearance of a character), but by everyone who enjoys crazy antics and good old fashioned lunacy. I would definitely recommend catching this resplendently crazy musical extravaganza before it’s too late!
Monty Python’s Spamalot has a very limited run. Catch the last six shows this weekend August 4-6, 2017 through next August 11-12, 2017. 8pm and 3pm at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Tickets are available at Ticketworld.
Photos by Jaypee Maristaza courtesy of Upstart Productions.