Byron Civic Theatre is currently performing Spamalot, the musical adaptation of the well-known film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Byron’s production is very ambitious and grand in scale, wrapping up impressive costumes, expansive sets, and some technical wizardry in one show.
This is actually the second time your Rockford Theater Examiner has reviewed a performance of Spamalot. Now as then, if you’re a Python fan, you will find most of the classic bits presented in the stage version of the tale of Arthur and his knights (plus a few extras borrowed from Life of Brian and the Lumberjack Song). In fact, the show’s look is quite in line with the movie, with most costumes being very close facsimiles of the screen outfits, right down to the chicken on Robin’s tabard and the moustache on Arthur’s sun emblem.
Visually, there is much to appreciate in this production, including the previously mentioned costumes. The sets are an impressive undertaking, including multiple unique castles that take up nearly the whole length of the stage. There are also a good deal of skillful technical touches, including scrim projections and various onstage beheadings and dismemberments (at Sunday’s performance the Black Knight’s “flesh wounds” malfunctioned a tad, but this perhaps made the scene all the more ridiculous and humorous).
Impressive visuals, but unfortunately the same cannot be said about the sound in this production, which was a complete mess. For a majority of the songs, the actors’ mics were too low and the music track was too loud. Indeed, most times a musical number began it was tough to properly hear or understand what was going on.
Thankfully though, most of the actors were a talented bunch, and quite obviously having fun with their characters. Doug Rappa plays Sir Lancelot well, but probably achieves his comedic highlight playing the French Taunter. Brian Wygant plays up the physicality of his parts, which include Galahad and the chief Knight of Ni, delightfully over the top. Paul Vander Vennet is enthusiastic as Sir Bedivere and uses fantastic facial expressions whenever he’s on stage. R. Douglas Konstans as Sir Robin is a particular riot at nearly all times, doing a great job with "You Won’t Succeed on Broadway" and nailing his exaggerated British accent. (The accents in this show are hit or miss… about half the cast uses a British accent, the other half decidedly American.) Leading this crop of knights is King Arthur, portrayed here by Dan Danielowski. His singing voice is great in the part, but unfortunately his acting seems a bit flat, with little variety in delivery and a usually vacant face. In true Pythonian fashion, most of the leads play multiple others parts, and deserve accolades for doing an effective job (particularly for all those quick changes!). Beyond the male leads, Tessa Castaneda is marvelous as the Lady of the Lake. She balances a true vocal capability with an intentionally inflated style (and never succumbs to the aforementioned volume issue thanks to her vocal strength). A truly on-point performance.
Steve Bartscher does a good enough job directing. He makes the most of his leads' talents, and, as mentioned before, the scope of the show is impressive to tackle. A little more development might have imbued the show with slightly more intrinsic charm and finesse. The show checks all the boxes and is by no means a “bad” performance, but there still seems to be something missing overall. It sometimes seems like the scenes in the show rely too heavily on the familiarity of the source material, when more legitimate zeal might take things further and elevate the production to greatness. Still, it will scratch your Python itch, and it does have a lot going for it. You can catch more performances this weekend: Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 or a Sunday Matinee at 2:00. Order your tickets by way of their website, by e-mailing email@example.com, or over the phone at 815-312-3000.