MODESTO — With the economy still in the dumps and natural disasters in Japan, it can be hard to look at the bright side of life.
Phoenix Entertainment’s touring production of “Spamalot,” now at the Gallo Center for the Arts, gives us the cheering up we need with lots of silly, slapstick humor from the 1975 comedy classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
No the show isn’t as good as that film and no, the actors can’t hold a candle to original Monty Python troupe members like John Cleese and Graham Chapman. But it provided enough laughs to get it a standing ovation from Friday’s opening night audience at the packed 1,250-seat Rogers Theater.
Written by Monty Python troupe member Eric Idle and John Du Prez and directed by Mike Nichols (“The Graduate”), the Tony Award-winning show isn’t a straight staging of the grail film. It mixes some of the best skits from the movie, like the Knights Who Say Ni and the Black Knight, with humorous commentary on current events and pop culture figures ranging from Lady Gaga to Charlie Sheen.
Some who aren’t big theater fans may grow weary of the constant spoofs of Broadway musicals and Broadway conventions. The jokes in “The Song That Goes Like This” may be lost on people who don’t intimately know the musical style of show tunes.
Steve McCoy plays the straight man as King Arthur, the earnest monarch who is trying to save England and follow God’s wishes to find the cup used by Jesus at his Last Supper. Caroline Bowman displays a huge voice as the Lady of the Lake, who guides Arthur throughout his quest and provides him with romance.
Glenn Giron is long-suffering as Patsy, King Arthur’s devoted servant who bangs coconuts together to simulate the sound of horse hooves as the monarch skips through the forest. As dim-witted Sir Lancelot, Adam Grabau keeps accidentally killing before before he finds love in a homosexual romance.
Camelot, as portrayed here, is a Las Vegas-style nightclub with glittery showgirls and a flashing roulette wheel. Choreographers Soctt Taylor and Casey Nicholaw make sure everyone gets to tap dance a lot.
The appealing songs include a mix of genres, including gospel, blues, jazz and pop, all accompanied by a vibrant orchestra conducted by Kevin Casey. Audience members can’t help but sing along and tap their feet when the cast sings “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life,” a peppy number lifted from the Monty Python film “Life of Brian.”
Tim Hatley’s intentionally anachronistic costumes mix medieval garb with Can Can dance outfits and French berets. James Kronzer’s sets include cartoon-like castles and villages and incorporate some animated short films shown on backdrops.
Though it can’t compare with Monty Python’s original material, “Spamalot” provides enough of the group’s distinctive brand of humor to satisfy fans.