If you're considering a trip to the Woolfe Street Playhouse to see Monty Python's Spamalot during its Piccolo Spoleto run, you might already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Whether you're a Monty Python diehard who bought each new LP when it came out back in the Seventies, or just someone who's seen one or maybe two of their films, you'll recognize the style of humor, if not some familiar jokes, almost immediately. If this is to be your first exposure, however, know that you can safely expect madcap silliness, unapologetic nonsense, and an organizing structure remarkably unconcerned with much in the way of organization. Plus: singing. Lots of singing.
Sound good? If not, no production of Spamalot will likely ever be to your taste. If so, chances are good you'll enjoy the Village Repertory Company's production of the Broadway hit and enjoy it immensely. The pacing is crisp, the live musical accompaniment is spot-on, and the actors all reflect full commitment to their characters. This last element is especially impressive in light of the fact that, with the exception of the two lead actors, the entire cast plays multiple roles (sometimes as many as five). Of course, this being a Monty Python musical, none of the characters possess much depth or complexity, but it's still got to be tough to keep it all straight. Brad Leon, for instance, has to juggle roles as a straight-faced narrator, cross-dressing teenaged prince, and "not dead yet" plague victim. Among others.
While all the actors, including Leon, do a wonderful job, the clear standout performance belongs to Becca Anderson as the Lady of the Lake. Inhabiting the role with vigor, commitment, and just the right amount of camp, Anderson steals nearly every scene she's in. This is clearly by design; one second-act song, following her absence since intermission, includes the lyric "I've been offstage for far too long / It's ages since I had a song." But it wouldn't work if Anderson's acting and voice didn't back it up as well as they do, or if she didn't clearly relish the over-the-top ridiculousness of her role, or the play as a whole, as she does.
On the topic of over-the-top ridiculousness, it bears repeating that, while Spamalot is a lot of fun, it lacks certain elements of what a typical theatergoer can generally expect when going to see a conventional play, whatever the genre. While there is certainly a plot, it exists more as a general framework upon which to hang various skits and songs. As mentioned above, the characters, without exception, are lacking in any depth or weight. The songs consistently refer back to themselves, poking fun at the singer, the show, and even the musical genre as a whole. But it works, as long as it's funny. And the majority of the time, it's very funny.
So if you're looking to be deeply moved or intellectually challenged, chances are great that there are multiple plays within a couple dozen blocks of Woolfe Street that will meet your needs before Piccolo Spoleto comes to a close. Spamalot won't. If you're hoping for a respectful treatment of Arthurian legend, the library has multiple editions of Le Morte d'Arthur to choose from. Spamalot will not do. If you're a fan of upbeat, irreverent comedy — preferably with copious non sequiturs, fart jokes, medieval costumes, show tunes, and a killer bunny — you'll have a hard time finding so much to like just about anywhere else in Charleston.