Monty Python’s DNA might be all over the hilarious musical-theater parody that banners its name, but in Upstart Productions’ take on “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” ongoing until Aug. 12 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza in Makati City, director Joel Trinidad nicely manages to make the show a bit his own.
“Spamalot” is cheeky and brazen at the same time, wittily poking its nose—not to mention a few fingers—at the more vulnerable spots of some of your famous Broadway musicals. Some scenes are not as laugh-inducing, but amid the overall hijinks, the material does make you think—yet without a single ponderous note intruding into the hilarity.
The story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table becomes the canvas for Monty Python’s determinedly tongue-in-cheek silliness, but its scrutiny of the object of its satire never remains on the surface level. After the initial guffaws, the audience is left looking at a mirror that fondly but honestly reflects some of the absurdity of the culture surrounding it, and which it has lovingly embraced.
Foreknowledge of the legendary Lerner-Loewe musical “Camelot”—obviously one of the show’s targets—would notch one’s appreciation of the material a few levels higher. Ditto with an awareness of the tropes and formulas that make such feel-good tales and musical fables perpetual hits in the storytelling business.
Trinidad has an innate understanding of this very British universe of deadpan inanity; he’s able to manage his actors’ paces well, their individual bags of jokes, punchlines and visual gags landing uproariously most of the time. Without forcing themselves, the well-knit cast gets the humor, and that full embrace of the Monty Python brand of tomfoolery results in a hoot of a show.
While the focus of the play is rightfully on King Arthur (a hammily dour Lorenz Martinez) and his handful of knights, each of the supporting actors is given his moment to shine. The more versatile the performer, the more he dazzles the audience.
Noel Rayos once again shows his chameleon-like abilities to shift from one character to the next. Domileo Espejo’s quiet comic presence tickles the funny bone at unexpected moments. But it is Reb Atadero who steals the show as he effortlessly transforms into a variety of zany, brightly imagined characters.
Like Martinez, Rachel Alejandro sticks with one character: the Lady of the Lake in all her incarnations. But this lady deftly avoids what some celebrity theater performers sometimes slip into doing. During her moments on stage, it is the character that is present, and not the showbiz star. Also, she sings splendidly.
“Spamalot’s” sardonic look at the theatrical tropes that have entertained us for years makes for some of the funniest moments on a local theater stage this season. And with it, Trinidad appears to have found the kind of material that summons his A-game. —CONTRIBUTED
“Monty Python’s Spamalot” runs until Aug. 12 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. Visit ticketworld.com.ph.