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Riverwalk Theatre ends its season not just with a bang — it ends with a “Holy Hand Grenade.”
Monty Python fans will understand the reference.
But it doesn’t take a devotee of the British comedy troupe to appreciate Riverwalk’s production of “Monty Python’s Spam alot.” Anyone who relishes a good musical will be delighted by the show with book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by Idle and John Du Prez.
All the Python essentials are intact — including a tossed cow, not-dead-yet man, shrubbery, and coconuts for the sound of horse hoofs. “Spamalot” has many of the elements of the “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” movie. The Riverwalk version manages to create on their small stage a musical extravaganza that stays true to big screen and big theatre varieties.
That’s not an easy task. Director Jane Falion was originally brave enough to take on the project, but she had to step down. Her vision was realized and expanded on when Bob Purosky took over. His skilled direction manages to tame a wild cast of 22 — most playing multiple roles — and guide them through an ever-changing and complicated play.
Having such a talented and well-assigned cast surely made the task easier. The “Spamalot” troupe seems to have been harvested from the cream of the crop of local actors — many with deep roots in theatre. There are no weeds or petty performers in the play.
To prove the point, Kelly Lofton was recruited as an ensemble member. She has played leads in “Beauty and the Beast,” “She Loves Me,” and “Grease.” Another ensemble member, Amanda Tollstam, has been a stage dancer for 28 years. Local theater icon Ken Beachler, as the voice of God, has only a few brief speaking parts.
With such a distinguished cast of accessories, each lead in “Spamalot” rises to star status. Ben Holzhausen is a magnificent and kingly Arthur. Kathryn Mulcahy’s “Lady of the Lake” had my head swimming with her potent vocals and diva-worthy acting.
Supporting players like Issac Orr as Sir Robin, Boris Nikolovski in the role of Patsy, and Will Harrison as Not Dead Fred and the Historian give spotlight-worthy performances.
The brightest moment for cast members is when they sing and dance. “Spamalot” is full of brilliant singing accompanied by John Dale Smith and seven other gifted musicians. Individual singers are mighty, and when joined by other cast members, the harmonious roar is astonishing.
The energetic dancing choreographed by Karyn Perry is complex and a joy to behold. Many routines involve expert tap and no cast member is exempt from dancing. They prance, interweave, and cavort seamlessly to clever and silly songs.
Elaborate medieval costumes and showy modern outfits — including a fancy, dark dress that quickly transforms into a white wedding dress — are beyond what might be expected for community theater. The dozens of creations by Kristine Maier and Chris Kennedy are magnificent.
Melody Stratton’s sophisticated props include a huge, wooden Trojan Rabbit, glowing scepter, body parts that get dismembered, and the required cow and coconuts.
Some occasional body microphone glitches were the only noticeable flaws to a classy production of a witty play that has fart jokes and irreverent humor. As it is, this “Spam” is delicious.
“Monty Python’s Spamalot”
June 14-17 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Drive, Lansing $24 for adults, $22 for seniors, military, and students (517) 482-5700 www.riverwalktheatre.com