By Jori Waldron
Just over the border in Indiana (literally exit 1) sits Theater at the Center, a lovely facility which includes a beautiful banquet hall in addition to the 200-plus seat theater with a thrust stage. TATC’s current production of Spamalot is worth whatever extra time it may take to get there.
Spamalot first appeared on Broadway in 2005 after being adapted from the Monty Python movies by people very familiar with the original Monty Python movies, Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Fans of Monty Python will just adore this musical extravaganza, which contains many of the same bits from the movies. It features a quest led by King Arthur accompanied by his sidekick Patsy and several knights of the round table to find the Holy Grail.
Theater at the Center’s artistic team does a fantastic job putting on a Broadway-caliber productions in a much smaller, more intimate venue. The costumes provided by Brenda Winstead nearly rival those of the Broadway production. The number of costume changes astounds the audience with a great deal of glitz and fast changes thrown in. It is not often that audiences see a wardrobe of this magnitude without paying at least double the ticket price. Very impressive.
The quality of singing, especially from a heavily-male production, also amazes audiences. King Arthur, played by Larry Adams, leads the troupe as a solid performer, well-suited for his role. His most memorable number is likely “I’m All Alone,” which he sings while standing right next to the ever-faithful Patsy (Greg Foster), who points out how overlooked the working class often is.
As one of many characters who play multiple roles, Sir Galahad (Jarrod Zimmerman) shows how versatile he is while adding strong harmonies to many company numbers. Two additional strong voices are Sean Fortunato as Sir Lancelot and Larry Wyatt as Sir Robin. Wyatt receives laughs throughout most of his numbers, most notably “Brave Sir Robin” sung about him, and “You Won’t Succeed in Broadway,” which somewhat controversially explains the need to have Jewish people in every show.
Audience favorite Fortunate shines in his number, “His Name is Lancelot,” then extends his comedic talent to portraying the French Taunter, the Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter, roles most fans know well.
These quality performances are enhanced by four back-up knights, David Schlumpf, Steve Peebles, Henry McGinniss and Nathan Mittleman, who add to the vocals as well as the dancing with two impressive tap numbers.
All of the choreography by Linda Fortunato enhances the performance and adds to the joy of the show. The female ensemble members, Katheryn Patton, Ann Delaney, Kayla Kennedy and Amanda Lauren Compton, manage their share of costume changes in order to add to the humor and vivacity of many dance numbers.
Though not entirely her fault, the Lady of the Lake (Colette Todd) weakens an otherwise enjoyable experience. Her songs are the cheesiest in the show, often satirizing the arc of Broadway shows, sung in an exaggerated-to-the- point-of-annoying way. It’s too bad, because Todd is a pretty girl with an extensive range, but she often pushes too hard due to the nature of the performance, making an otherwise pleasant soprano voice past the point that most listeners can tolerate.
Small issues aside, this show appeals to a variety of ages, understandable for people familiar with Monty Python along with those who aren’t. The Historian (Patrick Tierney), who acts as a narrator, leads the audience through this familiar tale of knights on a quest with plenty of puns and bathroom humor throughout the tale.
Catch this highly entertaining performance of “Spamalot,” running through October 18 at Theater at the Center in Munster, Indiana. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Prices range from $40 to $44 and can be purchased by phone at (219) 836-3255 or online here.