Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Monty Python's Spamalot' a full-on romp in De Pere

Birder Players

DE PERE, Wis. - King Arthur, a blowhard for the ages, laments his state in life. Here he is, the noblest of all noble men to walk the Earth, doing great deeds on his quest to retrieve the Holy Grail, and he must suffer this pursuit all, all, all alone. The song “I’m All Alone” rises with suffering beauty from Arthur. Within inches of the all, all, all alone Arthur is his minion, the aptly named Patsy. Never mind that Patsy has been hauling the load and sharing the travails on the quest, he simply doesn’t count in Arthur’s self-serving book.

Those moments are a distillation of prime cuts of the comedy troupe Monty Python, which in so many ways kicks British pomposity and the British class system right square in then pants.

On stage in the Birder Players’ production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at Broadway Theatre, those moments are prime in performance. The two guys in the scene – Chad Lemerande as Arthur and Parker Drew as Patsy – have been around the performance block and know how to finesse nuances. With Lemerande, voice/character is the forte. With Drew, it’s all about the timing, expressions and body language.

And this is just a snippet in a whole lot of fun being unleashed in this production by an overachieving company.

Monty Python – the creative group – cares little for convention. This company thrives on that in the multitude of send-up characters in a goofy story that thrashes history and the self-righteous in it.

The production brims with spark and laugh-out-loud humor. You know the gag gift that you open and – SPROING – out pops a surprise colorful coil? That energy is what director/choreographer Alicia Birder and the company have going.

The thing runs from makeshift-type costumes and set pieces to slick costuming and dance work.

The logistics of all the costume changes is a feat.

Ensembles tap into the script’s all-out playfulness – the Fisch Schlappers and their fish slap-happy dance, the Laker Girls and their rah-rah cheers, the Ni Knights and their goofus rules, the Broadway showgirls in their glitzy pizazz in gold lamé outfits, etc.

Aside from Lemerande and Drew, other performers catch a rhythm, often in multiple characters. Christa Johnson creates a presence, first as the alluring Lady of the Lake and then as Lady Guinevere, who rightly wonders in the King Arthur-dominate script, “What Happened to My Part?” Will Knaapen does yeoman’s work in featured roles that include Sir Lancelot, head of the Ni Knights and invective-spewing French Taunter. Warren Elliott and Alex Sabin are among the players who show up in one over-the-top character after another, each carefully designed.

Live, on stage in the now, this show is refreshing.

***

Creative: Book – Eric Idle; lyrics – Eric Idle; music – John Du Prez, Eric Idle, from the original screenplay by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin; director/choreographer – Alicia Birder; music director – Chad Lemorande; set design – Warren Elliott; wardrobe coordinator – Jolee Jackson; lighting design – Andrew Schmitz; sound design – Chris Gabyrczak; stage managers – Frank Tower, Lauren O’Callaghan; choreographer (“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”) – Anna Allen; dance captain, assistant choreographer – Ann Preiss Gray; prop design – Peggy McGee; hair/make-up design – Lois Gegare; scenic artist – Susan Elliott, Mike Gegare

Cast: Historian – Alex Sabin; Mayor – Parker Drew; Fisch Schlappers – Ana Lissa Bakken, Ann Preiss Gray, Natalie Rein, Aidan Guiou, Rich Noffsinger, Austin Helstad; Monks – Warren Elliott, Jeremy Pelegrin; King Arthur – Chad Lemorande; Sir Robin – Evan Lloyd; Patsy – Parker Drew; Sir Lancelot – Will Knaapen; Not Dead Fred – Alex Sabin; Dead Men – Aidan Averbeck, Rich Noffsinger, Austin Helstad, Aidan Guiou; Rag Man – Warren Elliott; Sir Galahad – Jeremy Pelegrin; Mrs. Galahad – Warren Elliott; The Lady of the Lake – Christa Johnson; Laker Girls – Ana Lissa Bakken, Hannah K. Blecha, Natalie Rein, Leya AbuJamra, Mikaela Torbenson, Ann Preiss Gray; Sir Bedevere – Warren Elliott; French Taunter – Will Knaapen; French Guards – Aidan Guiou, Austin Helstad, Alex Sabin; Knight of Ni – Will Knaapen; Ni Knights – Natalie Rein, Ana Lissa Bakken, Hannah K. Blecha, Ann Preiss Gray; The Black Knight – Jeremy Pelegrin; Robin’s Minstrels – Rich Noffsinger, Austin Helstad, Leya AbuJamra, Alex Sabin; Concorde – Warren Elliott; Herbert’s Father – Jeremy Pelegrin; Prince Herbert – Alex Sabin; Guards – Parker Drew, Evan Lloyd; Tim the Enchanter – Will Knaapen; Killer Rabbit – Hannah K. Blecha; Sir Bors – Aidan Guiou; Brother Maynard – Evan Lloyd; Women’s Ensemble – Leya AbuJamra, Ana Lissa Bakken, Hannah K. Blecha, Ann Preiss Gray, Natalie Rein, Mikaela Torbenson; Men’s Ensemble – Aidan Averbeck, Aidan Guiou, Austin Helstad, Rich Noffsinger

Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes

Remaining performances: 2 and 7 p.m. Feb. 10

Info: birderstudio.org

***

Musical numbers (recorded soundtrack)

Act I

“Fisch Schlapping Song” – Mayor and Ensemble

“Monk’s Chant #1” – Monks

“King Arthur’s Song” – Arthur, Patsy

“Monk’s Chant #2” – Monks

“I Am Not Dead Yet” – Not Dead Fred, Lance, Robin, Bodies

“Dead Playoff” – Lance, Men

“Lady of the Lake” – Lady of the Lake, Ensemble

“Laker Girls” – Arthur, Patsy, Laker Girls, Chorus

“The Song That Goes Like This” – Dennis, Lady of the Lake, Laker Girls

“All for One” – Arthur, Knights

“Knights of the Round Table” – Arthur, Knights, Lady of the Lake, Girls

“Find Your Grail” – Arthur, Lady of the Lake, Laker Girls, Ensemble

“Run Away!” – Arthur, Patsy, Knights, Frenchies, Brits

Act II

“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” – Arthur, Patsy, Knights

“Brave Sir Robin” – Minstrels

“Brave Sir Robin” (Reprise) – Minstrels

“You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” – Arthur, Patsy, Robin, Minstrels

“What Happened to My Part?” – Lady of the Lake

“Where Are You?” – Herbert

“Where Are You? #2” – Herbert

“Where Are You? #3” – Herbert

“Here Are You” – Herbert

“He’s Going to Tell” – Herbert, Concorde, Guards

“His Name is Lancelot” – Herbert, Lance, Men

“I'm All Alone” – Arthur, Patsy, Knights

“The Song That Goes Like This” (Reprise) – Arthur, Lady of the Lake

“Get Your Hand Off My Knee” – Knights

“The Holy Grail’s Been Found” – Ensemble

“Finale” – Ensemble

Bows: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (Reprise) – Company

***

NEXT: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” April 13-14, 19-21.

THE VENUE: Broadway Theatre is a 3,000-square-foot facility at 123 S. Broadway on the east side of the Fox River in De Pere. The building started life as the Majestic Theatre sometime around 1930. The space is essentially a “black box” performance space that is adjusted to the needs of a specific production. The rectangular space includes a high, arcing ceiling consisting primarily of its original patterned tin, painted white, and a laminate dark brown floor. The stage is set on a long leg of the space, with moveable seating for 140 on three sides. The stage has an angled front with three steps to the top surface. The stage is painted blue, with speckles. Performances can spill from the stage onto the main level of the seating area, so action often is up close and personal. The theater is the home for performances and rehearsals of the youth Birder Studio of Performing Arts and adult Birder Players, and it is another option for other endeavors of entertainment.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.


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