MERRY MEN Bouvy, Gregg, Andrako, Gleadow, Bundonis, and Bradley. [Photo by Steven Richard Photography]
It was inevitable that the country that brought us staid Queen Victoria and stiff upper lips was bound to eventually loosen up and bring us Monty Python, the comedy gang that gave us The Meaning of Life and the Ministry of Funny Walks.
So it’s a treat that Theatre By the Sea, down in Matunuck, is bringing us Monty Python’sSpamalot (through September 7), directed and choreographed by Billy Sprague, Jr., complete with live orchestra. With book and lyrics by troupe co-founder Eric Idle and music by Idle and John Du Prez, the musical is proudly and “lovingly ripped off,” as its credits declare, from the 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
It’s a wildly silly onslaught upon our sober faculties in a gleefully talented production. Any audience member not immediately compelled to put aside all thoughts of world problems should be promptly escorted out and medicated.
Any similarity to the legend of Camelot and King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail is purely and shamelessly intended, although the original tale is beefed up with such additions as a pile of Black Plague corpses who leap up to sing and a murderous bunny rabbit.
This King Arthur (Al Bundonis) is followed about by an obliging lackey named Patsy (Brad Bradley), who clops coconut shell halves together as they gallop about (the technique also saves trouble later on when some tap dancing comes up). Needless to say, a king with the imagination and financial savvy to save on the cost and upkeep of a horse is bound to have lots of adventures.
Which include almost getting squished by the enormous feet of God (voiced by Buddy Cianci) descending toward the stage, soon balanced by the pleasant adventure of hooking up with the Lady of the Lake (Haley Swindal). Among those joining him are a peculiarly bloodthirsty Sir Lancelot (Jonathan Gregg) and Sir Dennis Galahad (Michael Andrako). The latter is recruited from among some peasants and is surprised to lose his lower-class accent upon being knighted. But not as surprised as Lancelot later on, who finds himself gaily and enthusiastically leading the ensemble in a colorful Carmen Miranda routine.
Plenty of production numbers come up, the stage swarming with singers, but “Find Your Grail” slows down enough for Swindal to impress us belting out diva variations, from Judy Garland to Cher to Lady Gaga. She had exercised both her pipes and her sly comic skill earlier in a parody duet with Andrako, “The Song That Goes Like This,” making fun of those obligatory musical moments of soaring emotional manipulation. Happy for us that Swindal has the talent to command her scenes so well, since she has five songs in Act One, and doesn’t appear again until almost halfway through Act Two when she complains about that tragic neglect with “The Diva’s Lament.”
As king and lackey, Bundonis and Bradley make a compelling funny team, the former playing dignified obtuseness with subtle restraint and his companion occasionally displaying a Jeeves-like common sense superiority.