Spamalot (Rohnert Park)

The old axiom “the show must go on” traces its origins back to traveling circuses when, if an animal got loose, the ringmaster and the band tried to keep things going so that the crowd would not panic. Well, there’s one hell of an ‘animal’ running loose in Sonoma County right now and the folks at the Spreckels Theatre Company have decided their show must go on. They’ve gone ahead and opened their production of Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park with the intent of completing its run through October 29.

Thomas Yen, Peter Rogers, Ted Smith, Robert Nelson, Sam Starr, Jake Turner

I had mixed emotions about the decision. Most theatre companies have cancelled or postponed their productions. The air quality in the area is horrendous. Cell phones constantly beep with notices of the latest evacuations or fire updates. Thousands of people have lost their homes or have been evacuated from them. Roads are closed. Emergency vehicles from around our state and others are filling the streets. One cast member from this production is recovering from burn injuries in San Francisco.

And yet I attended, not so much as a reviewer, but as a member of the theatre and Sonoma County community seeking to support my fellow artists and citizens. I was joined by about one hundred other folks, some to support their family and friends, others to escape for a few hours from the harsh reality of the world literally just outside the theatre doors.

I’m glad I did. It was incredibly therapeutic to be in a theatre and to hear people laugh. I am extremely proud of the theatre artists who took the stage last night and gave their all to provide this community some relief.

The show began with a slight change to the usual admonition about cell phones. Rather than turn them off, people were encouraged to just switch them to vibrate. With that, musical director Lucas Sherman and the eleven-piece orchestra began the overture.

Spamalot is Monty Python member Eric Idle’s musical mash-up of their 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail and several of their classic British television series’ best bits. It’s the warped tale of King Arthur (Robert Nelson) who, joined by his servant Patsy (Ted Smith), is gathering a company of knights (Zane Walters, Craig Bainbridge, Peter Rogers, David Gonzalez) to begin a quest for the Holy Grail. Along the way they’ll run into the Lady of the Lake (Shannon Rider), some Knights who say “ni”, a “him-sel” in distress (Lorenzo Alviso) and his exasperated, music- hating father (Sam Starr), a French taunter (Thomas Yen), a person who’s not quite dead (Emily Walters) and a rabbit that’s dynamite.

Shannon Rider and Ensemble

It’s a silly show with silly songs (by Idle and John Du Prez) like “I’m Not Dead Yet”, “The Song That Goes Like This”, “Find Your Grail”, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”, and “Whatever Happened to My Part?”. Choreographer Michella Snider has them done in a variety of styles from classic Broadway show-stoppers to Vegas lounge acts to a smidgen of disco. In the same vein, director David L. Yen has his silly cast doing silly things. The humor is often bawdy and crude with both groan-inducing and laugh-out-load visual puns and bits. The “Black Knight” scene seemed to fall apart as much as the Black Knight, but that just made it funnier.

For those who expect more specific criticisms, let me just say this: For a cast that, like most people in the area, has probably slept little in the last week and have had to breathe ash for the last five days, they did all right. Hell, they made me laugh.

The show concluded with an encore of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Many in the audience joined in, and as they exited the auditorium, they all seemed a little happier than when they entered.

If you’re at the point where you need a break and feel safe enough to get out, go ahead and turn off your TV and radio, put your phone on silent, grab some friends who could use a laugh or two as well, and join King Arthur and his gang on their quest. You may not find your Grail, but you’ll find some something even more valuable – a little light during these very dark days.

Monty Python’s Spamalot

Presented by the Spreckels Theatre Company  

through October 29

Fri/Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 2pm

Spreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928

(707) 588-3400

Photos by Jennifer Griego

About the Author

Harry DukeHarry Duke is an actor, director, teacher, and theatre critic whose reviews can be seen online at the For All Events website and in print in the Sonoma County Gazette. He can also be heard weekly on KSRO's "The Drive with Steve Jaxon" and KRCB's "Second Row Center". He holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Sonoma State University where he graduated magna cum laude. He is an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area theatre community and has appeared in an average of three shows a year for the past several years. He has been seen on stage in roles as varied as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot to Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors. He is also the Senior Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Worst Show on the Web, a popular podcast and entertainment site where his musings on the current state of film, television and pop culture can be found.View all posts by Harry Duke →