Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Directed by Clay White
Choreography by Brandon Harvey
Music Direction by Rebecca Lowrey
Scenic Design by Joseph Cummings
Costume Design by Stefanie Glenn
Lighting Design by Ken Davis
Projection Design by Nate Davis
Properties Design by Connie Mauree Hay
Stage Management by Melissa Santana
Produced by George Redford
Assistant Direction by Katie Moyes Williams
Assistant Choreography by Shonna Chaney
Wig Design by Marcus Lopez
Sound Design by Danica Bergeron
Master Carpenter- Tom MoorE
Light Board Operator- Ken Davis
Sound Board Operator- John Damin, sr.
Sound Cue Operator- Chris Buras
King Arthur – Ben Phillips
Sir Robin/Guard 1/Brother Maynard – Michael D. Durington
Sir Lancelot/ The French Taunter/Knight of Ni/ Tim the Enchanter – Gregg Gerardi
Sir Galahad/ The Black Knight/ Prince Herbert's Father – Greg Hullett
Sir Bedevere/ Dennis's Mother/ Concorde – Pat Watson
Patsy / Mayor of Finland/ Guard 2– John Garcia
Historian/Herbert/Fred/Lead Minstrel – Derek Whitener
Lady of the Lake – Stephanie Felton
Knights of the Round Table/Male Ensemble:
Jack Bledsoe, Timothy Brawner, Brendon Gallagher, Jared Johnson, Monty Maisano
Laker Girls/Female Ensemble:
Brooke Benefield, Elisa Danielle, Lillian Andrea De Leon, Jamie Ecklund, Lynsey Hale
Conductor & Piano/ Keyboard 1 – Rebecca Lowrey
Keyboard 2- Rachel Olsen
Trumpet- Jeff Norman
Bass- Steve Cullen
Drums/Percussion- Randy Linberg
All photos taken by Karen Busby-Doss
Reviewed Performance 10/11/2013
Reviewed by Sten-Erik Armitage, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The mere mention of the name Monty Python in a group setting will start a chain of absurd comments, silly voices and inside jokes that will prove utterly ineffable to the outside observer. Few institutions are as entrenched as Monty Python within their fan base. Eric Idle, one of the founding members of the absurdist sketch comedy troupe from the 1970's, set out to capture some of that fan loyalty with the 2004 Tony Award winning musical, Spamalot.
Under the detailed direction by Clay White, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre endeavored to bring the irreverent absurdity of this Monty Python farce to life, and they have succeeded! I'll be honest: this reviewer entered the venue with some trepidation. After all, the last time I saw this production was the National Tour when it came to the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas in 2011. Incredible staging, elaborate costumes, detailed sets, the bar was set very high. GLCT is a perfect small venue on Main Street in the Old Town of Lewisville. The key word here is "small." When I first took my seat, I looked down on the miniscule stage thinking it would never be possible for them to pull this off. After all, Spamalot is a frantic, fast-paced, highly-choreographed roller coaster. How in the world could they accomplish so much in so little space?
My fears were for naught. Director White throws in a plethora of nudges to other musicals and current pop culture references, and keeps the actors on a path of full out pace and energy. How he was able to stage and block all that scenery, special effects, scrims, curtains, moving set pieces, and a big cast is a major accomplishment and testament in regards to his talent as a director.
Scenic Designer Joseph Cummings worked his magic in this small venue to recreate the feast hall of Camelot, a daunting (and taunting) French castle, a magical lake, a plague-infested middle-age slum, and a very, ahem, expensive forest. Using solid design in limited space along with the power of suggestion was greatly aided with excellent lighting design by Ken Davis. Another element of surprise was several magical projected visual effects by projection designer Nate Davis. These designers created convincing scenes that augmented and never distracted from the action on the stage. This is a challenging goal for any production, and all the more when you are competing for precious proscenium space with a large ensemble cast in a small venue!
Stefanie Glenn's costume design was extremely impressive. It would have been easy for her to phone it in by smacking just one generic costume on a cast member to wear throughout the evening and be done with it. But Glenn made sure that not one of her costumes made reappearance. Glenn did not take any shortcuts – For the opening number she costumed the yodeling dancers looking straight out of a Ricola commercial. Once we enter England and Camelot, she creates and designs a dizzy array of pastel colored, fantastic costumes. From the principal Knights (Each with their special crest adorning their chests), to King Arthur’s royal robes, to the sparkling gowns for the Lady of the Lake, Glenn went full out. For the ensemble they go from one full costume straight into another. For a Community Theater and a costume designer to make sure that each number had a complete costume change from head to toe is unheard of in a non-equity production nowadays.
Another pleasant surprise was the music itself. When the Overture began, my wife leaned over to ask me if they had an orchestra. I assured her they did not. After all, where in the world would you fit them? The seating went right up to the stage itself. When the scrim rose, I was amazed to see a five-person orchestra providing live accompaniment above the set throughout the show. Conducted by Rebecca Lowrey, who was also the principal keyboardist, these five musicians did an admirable job keeping up with an intensely-paced show. I cannot overemphasize how significant this is. When a musical is performed to a pre-recorded track, the actors are limited significantly in their ability to embody their characters and make their part their own. By having a live orchestra that is tuned in to the performers, the audience, and the spirit of the evening, you have the opportunity to create a unique and magical experience not constrained by the harsh taskmaster of fixed recording. Kudos to the team at GLCT for taking the risk and investing the time, effort (and money!) to have a live orchestra on hand for each performance!
After a witty introduction by the versatile and talented Historian played by Derek Whitener, our Pythonesque romp begins with a rousing tribute to Finland and a beautifully choreographed Fisch Schlapping Dance where the cast seems to confuse the Britons with the Finns. A hilarious beginning with a great comic performance by all the dancers, particularly by the Mayor of Finland, portrayed by a coke bottle glasses-wearing, lederhosen, clad John Garcia.
After an amazingly fast costume change, Garcia reappears in his primary role for the evening that of Patsy, the faithful sidekick to the quest-driven King Arthur, played to stellar results by Ben Phillips. Phillips played a convincing Arthur, complete with dramatic vibrato-laden resonance in his voice throughout the night. Phillips steers completely away from trying to impersonate Graham Chapman (who created the role for the film version). Throughout the performance he received resounding laughter from the audience due to his comedic talents.
Phillips and Garcia made a great couple. Phillips captured the regal self-importance and obliviousness of this comic King Arthur, while Garcia was physical comedy personified alongside the King. Often without saying a single word, Garcia's physicality and facial expressions as Patsy radiated comedy and generated loud laughs throughout the evening.
We are introduced to Michael D. Durington as Sir Robin, Gregg Gerardi as Sir Lancelot, and reintroduced to Whitener, this time as Not Dead Fred. In the hilarious number "I Am Not Dead Yet”, Choreographer Brandon Harvey accomplished the impossible (as he did throughout the night) by having fast-paced, physically demanding numbers for such a large ensemble with no collisions, at least as far as I could see. One of the advantages of this intimate staging was the ability to see the actors’ faces clearly from anywhere in the house.
This played to one of Durington's strengths. From the moment we first meet his character calling for the dead, he was the brave (and by brave we mean cowardly) Sir Robin. He owned his character from the very beginning!
Gregg Gerardi too did a fantastic job of catching the handsome, dashing and slightly confused Sir Lancelot. You could never tell if he was ready to slay a dragon or pose for his next photo shoot, which was perfect for this role. A special hat tip needed to go out to Gerardi for his brief stint as one of the French Taunters. He clearly had a lot of fun in this uncredited role and made the most of the opportunity to exercise his outrageous French accent as he tortured the knights on their quest. He returns later on to provide another round of solid laughs as the Knight of Ni. I have had the pleasure of reviewing Gerardi in past productions (including Hairspray as Link Larkin and in the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). In my picks for THE COLUMN’s “Best in Theater” issue, I named Gerardi two years in a row in my list of the best performances of the year. Here he again succeeds in bountiful results.
Two of the most impressive vocalists in the production were showcased in the number “The Song that Goes Like This”. Gregory Hullett as the dashing Sir Galahad and Stephanie Felton as the Lady of the Lake demonstrated their vocal chops and comedy skills simultaneously in one of my favorite numbers from the musical. Felton was a delight throughout the evening as she parodied everything from classic Broadway to R&B, opera and scat. Such stylistic and vocal range coupled with an excellent sense of comedy is a rare combination.
Another flexible performance came from Pat Watson as the flatulent Sir Bedevere, Lancelot's faithful squire Concord, and Galahad's politically savvy, mud-harvesting mother. It can't be easy to transition from an earthy English woman to a noble(ish) knight, to an arrow-resistant servant. Some of the biggest laughs of the evening came from Watson's characterization of Concord's seemingly fatal message delivery service and subsequent awkward exit. I would have loved to have seen more of Watson throughout the night.
One technical glitch snuck in throughout the evening. Somehow, the instructions being offered from the stage manager and the control booth would occasionally come out over the house speakers. At times a woman's voice could be heard in moments of silence, offering backstage instruction, or a male voice could be heard referencing lighting cues. It occurred a number of times but thankfully not so often or so loudly that it significantly distracted from the evening.
In the first of four (!) showstoppers of the evening, the company number "Knights of the Round Table/Camelot" is packed with high energy, razzle dazzle choreography (combining tap and Jazz), and full out booming singing by the entire cast- all combined to provide the audience with a smashing musical number.
The second show-stopper came with the beginning of the second act, Garcia all too briefly took center stage with the Life of Brian inspired number, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. This was a major show-stopping number as it showcased Garcia's hysterical comic physicality and facial expressions as well as the excellent choreography, including a tap break, by Harvey. The discipline and practice clearly demonstrated by Garcia and the male ensemble was to be commended.
In fact, every single full company musical number shone with blinding success by the singing and the eye-popping choreography executed with unified success by this dynamic ensemble. This hard working army of talent consisted of Jack Bledsoe, Timothy Brawner, Brendon Gallagher, Jared Johnson, Monty Maisano, Brooke Benefield, Elisa Danielle, Lillian Andrea De Leon, Jamie Ecklund, and Lynsey Hale.
The next show-stopper was led by Durington as Sir Robin and that terrific ensemble as they performed a lengthy and entertaining rendition of ‘You Won't Succeed on Broadway”. Seldom will you have an opportunity to see traditional Jewish wedding dances done with only nominal help from Velcro and gravity-defying chalices!
The final show-stopper capitalized once again on the excellent chemistry between King Arthur and Patsy. Phillips and Garcia had a hilarious take on the musical duet, “I Am Alone” this duet had me laughing throughout. For me, it was a huge highlight within the show.
It seems as though every show has at least one stand-out performance, and GLCT's Spamalot is no exception! Although every ensemble member, from the Laker Girls to the leads, did an excellent job, Derek Whitener stood out from within the ensemble for a number of reasons. In addition to playing four significant roles in the production, he displayed amazing vocal chops, impeccable comic timing and seamless transitions from one character to the next. Whitener as Prince Herbert was outstanding. In all, his was a worthy homage to the original rendition by Terry Jones in the 1975 film. Well done.
To sum up, this is a production worth seeing and a must see for sure. From the attention to the smallest detail on the props designed by Connie Mauree Hay, to the quartet of designers: Glenn’s costume design, to the quality of the set design of Joseph Cummings, Ken Davis's lighting design and Nate Davis's projection design, this company embraced excellence. All helmed and tied together with White’s creative direction.
Above all, this company of zany performers had fun. It was clear to me this was a cast and crew that loved one another and had a blast working together. And as an audience member, I can assure you, I had a blast watching them. An outstanding knight at the theatre, pun absolutely intended!
greater Lewisville Community Theatre
160 W. Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75057
Runs through November 3rd
***Rated PG-13 (some language and adult content)
Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $20.00, $17.00 for seniors 65 + and those 18 and under.
For information, go to http://www.glct.org/. To make a reservation, call 972-221-SHOW (7469), leave a message and the Box Office manager will reserve seats for you as requested. Leave a call back number and she will call you if there is any problem, such as a sell-out. Be sure to indicate if you need special seating arrangements such as wheelchair or other accommodations.
Pay for your tickets at the box office by cash or check. PLEASE NOTE THEY DO NOT TAKE CREDIT OR DEBIT CARDS! ONLY CASH AND CHECKS!.