Overheard amid the pre-show mingling at Moonlight Amphitheatre about 20 minutes before curtain time: “I like this show because you don’t have to think about it.” From that timely comment, we can presume the following: This patron, like many in the audience, had seen Monty Python’s Spamalot before. Second, this wacky musical-comedy based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” isn’t thought to be complex material. But here this big mouth was wrong: While many of the gags – both verbal and physical – in Spamalot are no-brainers, the show (book and lyrics by Python Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Idle) is rife with wry and subtle nuggets that require if not a sophisticated mind then at least one in tune with the zany Monty Python sensibility.
Spamalot was in town just last year, making its regional debut at the Welk Resorts Theatre (there was a national touring production at the Civic a couple of years before that), but Moonlight’s production is bigger, more lavish and more Vegas. In the Act One scene “Camelot,” the setting is sheer Sin City, complete with scantily clad dancers and giant roulette wheel suspended from the rafters. Moonlight’s Spamelot also benefits from a straight-faced, exasperated King Arthur, beautifully played by Sean Murray, who’s also artistic director of Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. Returning to Moonlight after a much tamer performance in last year’s production of Young Frankenstein is Larry Raben, who is three times as funny here in the role of Knight of the Round Table Sir Robin.
Most of the scenes, like the show itself, are deliberately ridiculous. There are so many puns and dolllops of distinctly British humor that no one could keep track of them all, But even if this is your third or even fourth experience with the craziness, you’re bound to enjoy not only the familiar nonsensical songs, but the costumes and set designs of Tim Hatley (provided by Musical Theatre West), the “Laker Girls” who accompany The Lake of the Lake (Christine Hewitt) during her first number and the irreverent spoof of the Great White Way, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” Tossed-in references to Vista and deposed ex-mayor Bob Filner don’t hurt either.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat