Ian Anderson noon, Dec. 18
Spamalot at Welk Resort
King Arthur pretends to ride a horse while Patsy, his faithful servant, clop-clops cocoanuts to sound like hooves.
From the walls of a French castle, a guard tells the "sons of a silly person" that "your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." He vows to "fot in your general di-rection!"
Arthur claims he's king of the Britons: England, Scotland, "and tiny little bits of Gaul." He's king because a woman in a lake said so. This news disturbs Dennis Galahad and his mother. They're members of a communist collective and believe that "supreme executive power derives from a mandate of the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!"
The knights also fret about why a Holy Grail could be missing; how could an all-seeing, all-knowing almighty "misplace a cup"?
Imagine someone saying this to Richard Burton/King Arthur in the musical Camelot, and you get the gist of the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Eric Idle's musical adaptation, "lovingly ripped off from the motion picture," spoofs Camelot and other things Broadway: like Andrew Lloyd Webber's power ballads and gooey emotional builds.
Compared to the movie, Spamalot's a mite watered down. The Catch-22 witch test is out (if she drowns, she wasn't a witch), as is the scene at Castle Anthrax, where eightscore young blondes between 16 and 19 1/2 lead dull lives and poor Zoot - "wicked, wicked Zoot!" - commits a punishable crime.
And there's a potentially offensive number about Jews on Broadway: "we won't succeed in business if we don't have any Jews" (Spamalot premiered when The Producers and Yeltl were running strong).
The Welk Resort Theatre's hositng Premiere Production's often funny, but rough-round-the-edges version. Not all the vocalists match the notes piped in on a soundtrack. Some scenes lack the black-out crispness of the comedy troupe. And the sound design needs re-balancing. But in a way, the glitches are less distracting that if they were in, say, Camelot, since the movie and musical have a home-made, let's-put-on-a-show flavor.
Bob Himlin's a kick as King Arthur, as perplexed as he is entitled. Although her voice went flat on occasion, Mitzi Michaels is a sassy Lady of the Lake. Her singing of "The Song That Goes Like This," with Paul Morgavo's philosophical Sir Galahad, is a highlight.
Marshall Elstad, as Drop Dead Fred ("I'm not dead yet") and young, ever-about-to-sing Herbert, catches the musical's spirit so well you'd think he was a Python original.
Randall Hickman, who co-directed with Douglas Davis, turns minor roles into major ones, including the 10-foot tall knight who says "ni," and as Galahad's Marxist mother. Stephen Grawrock makes Patsy a singing Sancho P.
Shirley Johnson choreographs the large cast to good effect, and Hickman's numerous costumes are spot-on Python.
When he needed a title, Eric Idle recalled a line from the movie: "we eat ham, and jam, and Spam a lot."
Welk Resort Theatre, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido, playing through June 23.