There is nothing quite like seeing live theater in a post-pandemic world.
After being closed for its 2020 theatrical season due to the pandemic, the Ogunquit Playhouse returns to the southern Maine stage with a debauchery and outrageous musical performed in what can only be described as a gigantic tent theater built next to the holy grail of summer theaters at this seaside town.
And speaking of Holy Grail, the renewed season opens with a production of Spamalot which brings the classic crazy British film antics of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on stage as a musical with parodies of the legend of King Arthur combined with tributes to unique styles of musical theater.
Spamalot was a smash hit on Broadway and was written by a member of Python Eric Idle and directed by a veteran of the stage and the cinema Mike Nichols (“The graduation”). During its broadcast, the musical won several Tony Awards.
At the start of the season, Spamalot brings to town a spectacular cast, awe-inspiring song and dance, and all the craziness you can pack into one stage, though the Ogunquit stage isn’t the most used to it. More on that later.
Regardless of the accuracy of the legend of the Middle Ages, Spamalot tells the story of King Arthur (Charles Shaughnessy of television fame to appear in The days of our lives, the nanny and the mad men ) and his Knights of the Round Table: the cowardly theater nerd, Sir Robin (Josh grisetti), the cloistered Sir Lancelot (Marc Ginsbourg), the handsome Sir Galahad (Daniel A. Lopez) and the well-intentioned Sir Bedevere (Dwelvan David); and their quest for the Holy Grail. The Grail is said to bring miraculous powers which bring happiness, eternal youth and sustenance in infinite abundance.
Aided by the faithful servant Patsy (played mischievously by Jen Cody), who follows the knights, smacking coconuts together as they gallop on imaginary horses, this rather inept band of warriors encounter many obstacles along the way, including a castle full of abusive Frenchmen (one of the funniest scenes of the evening) and the dreaded knights who say “Ni”. And then there is the killer rabbit to face.
Fortunately, the merry men are aided in their journey by the Lady of the Lake (Mariand Torres), a muse who spends most of the evening making fun of the divas of the theater world. Torres is a vocal power that skyrockets in his self-deprecating tunes like “The Song That Goes Like This”, which pays homage to the stereotypical tunes found in most musicals or in “The Diva’s Lament”, or after a long absence of the action in Act II, she sings “Whatever Happened to My Part?”
The musical numbers are pure schtick, which is what you would expect when Monty Python’s comedy adapts to the musical theater scene.
“I Am Not Dead Yet” confronts those who are not ready to succumb to the plague while “Knights of the Round Table” offers audiences a rendering of Camelot in Vegas.
And even exaggerated themes like âYou Won’t Make it on Broadwayâ (If you don’t have Jews) âandâ Where are you? âIceberg of catchy, witty and irreverent tunes that fill the evening.
And the uplifting melody “Always look on the bright side of life”, borrowed from the film, Monty Python and the life of Brian, even find a house in Spamalot with the audience joining in for a post-curtain interpretation.
With a very talented performer like Shaughnessy at the helm of this production, a role he played in Ogunquit ten years ago, the cast is fabulous. Some take on multiple roles with quick costume changes and adapt to different styles of music and choreography without missing a beat. The vocals are solid, the costumes are dazzling, and the set, which sits on a stage three times the size of the Ogunquit Indoor Hall, is clever and creative.
I would dare to say that there is an additional liveliness of this group of actors which returns on stage after 15 months of absence from the theater. They not only bring back live theater to hungry audiences, but they bring back a sense of normalcy that we desperately need. I cried with joy during the encore, again savoring every moment in the theater.
And about this tent theater pavilion …
Although I call it a tent theater, don’t think for a moment that the newly created theater is a pop-up tent with shutters blowing in the breeze. With a steel frame, a thick vinyl exterior that provides protection from the elements and reduces exterior lighting, this temporary theater is a building well designed to accommodate the post-pandemic audience. The only nuisance was a few noisy motorcycles spinning on US Highway 1. I would also have preferred the entrances to have been closed during the show.
Seats come in pairs with chairs about six feet away from other members of the audience and about six feet between rows. The theme for this summer is âMasks on the Moveâ where guests are encouraged to wear masks when moving around the Ogunquit grounds, but can remove them while indulging in pre- and post-show drinks and while on the go. looking at the performance.
This space offers every ounce of magic that the Ogunquit Playhouse has offered for over eight decades. Of course, we would all love to be back in the historic theater, but this structure is a magnificent achievement in ensuring a comfortable and very safe theater venue in 2021.
Thank you Ogunquit Playhouse for bringing me home once again.
Spamalot runs until July 10.