By Sharon Byrne
There is some pretty spectacular musical theater on stage right now in Santa Barbara in a surprising location. For the bargain price of $10, you can treat yourself to two hours of Vegas-wattage, Broadway-bound rising stars hitting it out of the park. The Santa Barbara High School Theater is staging Spamalot, lovingly ripped off (as they put it) from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, totally amped up, dressed up and repackaged into a raucous show with something on offer for everyone.
As with all things Python, no sacred cows are left unmolested. Everything is fair game. For hardcore Python fans, like the author of this review, rest assured – all the great bits from The Holy Grail are intact in this production:
Knights skipping on foot, with faithful serf trotting behind, clapping coconuts to produce horse sound effects – check.Monks bashing their heads with tomes while chanting in Latin – check.Plague victims protesting they’re not quite dead yet, only to be quickly finished off so a relative can collect all of nine pence – check.French soldiers hurling puerile insults with ‘zeir outwrhaaaageous akzent’ and the wooden rabbit ruse that went sideways – check.Brave Sir Robin with the accompanying and highly annoying minstrels constantly singing a narrative of the true chicken he is – check.Knights who say Nih! and demand shrubberies – check.
All the required elements are there, but Spamalot also packs in a slew of brilliant musical numbers, including “The Song That Goes Like This”, with sweeping romantic themes, done in Pythonesque style. Who better than the Monty Python crew to turn the lens of irreverence and spoof on theatrical elements from within an actual play performance?
They’ve crafted a special part for a brilliant Diva, played by Mary Cusimano, who starts off as the Lady of the Lake, and then morphs into other leading lady roles. We just start to notice she’s been missing a bit in the second half when she strides out on stage in a flouncy robe and laments a hilarious number ‘What Happened To My Part?!?’
Talking with Andrew Gutierrez, one of the main leads in the second half, the students didn’t change the script as written, especially since the script is difficult to obtain, and Santa Barbara is one of the first high schools to perform it. But they did add twists to make it more exciting, and the choreographer, Christina McCarthy took the dance numbers and ran with them. The campus has been swept with a sort of awestruck pride that the show is actually incredible, really.
The costumes, the accents (yes, they nailed them), the songs, and wit are all brilliantly done. In the second half, an underlying theme begins to emerge, a bit of truth in jest, if you will, where the kids fully embody the script, saunter up to one of the most polarizing social issues at present, and poke it squarely in the eye. It’s quite brave, and they pull it off with top marks.
Spamalot will make you want to dance in the aisles, clap too loudly, guffaw in laughter, and sing at the top of your lungs. Perhaps best of all, with all the youth vibrancy rocking that stage, you’ll be totally amped up to go quest for your own grail, and indeed they urge you to do so. At the end of the night, it was one hell of an exercise in showmanship, great theater, and creative expression. Put your seat backs in the upright position, put away your tray table, and fasten that seatbelt – you’re in for a great ride.
It’s the most fun you can possibly have for a mere $10 and without having to get on a plane to Vegas or New York.