The Kentucky Conservatory Theatre opened its annual SummerFest season at the Moondance Amphitheatre on Thursday night with a rollicking rendition of Monty Python's Spamalot. This highly irreverent stage adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005, and KCT's production demonstrates the strengths of the show by Eric Idle and John Du Prez by fulfilling not just all the familiar, beloved Monty Pythonisms but also all the show business tropes lampooned in the play.
Directed with verve by Wesley Nelson, Spamalot mocks the legend and characters of King Arthur and his court with humor equal parts silly and crass. Nelson fills the stage with sight gags, slapstick antics and other outlandish buffoonery, and under his guidance, the manic energy never wavers.
The inventive choreography by Diana Evans Pulliam adds both wit and flair to the proceedings, and musical director Jessica Slaton Greene has coached the cast to sounding great in their songs. This production is performed with a pre-recorded orchestral track supplied by the show's royalty contractors, which works quite well apart from a few times when cues were slow from waiting for the recording to begin.
The cast throw themselves headlong at this material and the result is very entertaining. King Arthur, played with deadpan sincerity by Matt Seckman, is all clueless honor and daffy nobility as he assembles the Round Table and quests for the Holy Grail. As his squire/horse Patsy, Rebecca Keith makes a cute and sympathetic sidekick.
Typically of Monty Python players, most of the actors portray multiple characters. For example, Jacob L. Karnes IV plays not only the knight Sir Robin, but also a French taunter and a castle guard, as both of which he is hilarious. Appearing primarily as Sir Belvedere, the funny Josh Heinlein also shines as Sir Galahad's mother.
Thanks to his excellent comic timing, Jaimie Hagood is especially memorable in his many parts, particularly as Not Dead Fred in the first act, and as the cartoonishly gay Prince Herbert in the second. Josh Stone as Sir Lancelot and Matthew Winters as Sir Galahad also flesh out their other characters with zany fun.
Leave it to a diva soprano to steal the show, though. Stafford Hartman embodies The Lady of the Lake to perfection. In this showy role that won Sara Ramirez a Tony Award, Hartman brings a winning willingness to go way over the top, and she electrifies the stage whenever she is present. Her vocal chops are phenomenal, too. Besides possessing a beautiful voice, Hartman is able to utilize it in the service of different musical styles from the power ballad Whatever Happened To My Part and the humorous romantic duet The Song That Goes Like This with Winters, to the faux inspirational gospel song Find Your Grail.
The remaining ensemble members have as much stage time and give as much entertainment value as their colleagues in the name parts. Kelsey Sandel, Rachel Jarrard, Alisha Johnson, Savannah Riley Adams, Zach Schoner, Kenny Demus, and Isaac Hines-Williams are just as much the stars of this show as Hartman and Seckman are.
From the production end, the workable sets and competent lighting, by Jerome Wills and Danny Bowling respectively, serve as backdrop to the impressive array of eye-popping costumes, assembled from many sources under the supervision of Kerri Peterson and her design team headed by Patrick Howell.
For its second year presenting a musical at this new venue, SummerFest has not only avoided a sophomore slump after last year's great production of Little Shop of Horrors, but it has demonstrated considerable growth with this entertaining staging of a much more complex show.