Venue: Grand Opera House, York
Spamalot reminded the audience to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life at the Grand Opera House York on Monday. With his trusty coconut clacking sidekick Patsy (Todd Carty of The Bill fame), Joe Pasquale’s King Arthur came galloping in with the promise of an evening of laughter and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Catchy new songs were thrown in with Python stalwarts and a makeshift set which only served to reaffirm that this was ‘a musical lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’
At first, Joe Pasquale’s distinctive nasal frequency seems a dangerous choice for the leading man in a musical. Admittedly, I was uneasy about the decision, until I realised that his wobbly voice is a perfect reflection of the everyman quality of Arthur and the utter randomness of monarchy. In other words- why on earth should people obey a bloke just because he’s been given a sword by ‘some watery tart’? It turns out this is a genius piece of casting. Pasquale plays to his strengths, improvising to the point even the cast were in stitches. There were a few moments in Act II when it felt as though his presence was veering on pantomime, but a quality supporting cast prevented this by bouncing off any hilariously erratic Hasselhoff-donkey-jokes.
Musical theatre purists must disregard everything they hold dear and let this divine comedy take them on a tour of plague-riddled chivalric England and all its wonderful absurdities. For those who have seen the West End version, this revival hasn’t let itself waste away- much like audience favourite Not Dead Fred (Richard Kent). The production turned pop culture into satirical fodder- going so far as to acknowledge Cheryl Vernandez-Fersini’s latest name change- and a delectable guest appearance by a drag queen Mary Berry.
Versatility was paramount for this ensemble cast- with some actors performing as many as four roles. Josh Wilmott and Richard Kent both made seamless gender transitions back and forth with aplomb. Sarah Earnshaw’s Lady of the Lake can’t pass without a mention- her incredible vocal gymnastics lampooning every possible stage and musical custom. This mickey-take of the West End was exhibited perfectly in The Song That Goes Like This with Richard Meek’s conventionally dashing Galahad.
If you go into the Grand Opera House expecting a slick production, you certainly won’t get it, prop malfunctions and corpsing abound in this performance, but that’s all in true Python spirit. A sign of a great musical is the audience still singing the tunes as they leave the theatre- and Spamalot achieved this perfectly.