Large-scale production of ‘Spamalot’ brings large-scale laughs

The moment Jerry Eiting as King Arthur pantomimes the classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” horse riding, followed by Ally Shore as Patsy mimicking the clopping of hooves with coconut shells, instant applause arose. Eiting and Shore are brilliant in their roles, delivering nonstop laughs that grow louder and longer throughout the show, but everyone gets a show-stopper in “Spamalot.”

Productions of this scale are only attempted on Maui once or twice a year for good reason. Maui OnStage’s “Spamalot” requires countless scene changes, continuous video projections and more costume changes than I could keep track of.

Pulling double duty in the Historic Iao Theater production, Shore designed the massive castle set and the imagery projected on two screens. Lina Aiko Krueger as the Lady of the Lake and David Tuttle as Sir Galahad elicit rolling laughter throughout “The Song That Goes Like This.” Perhaps the most hysterical number in the entire production is “Knights of the Round Table,” which reinvents Camelot as a Las Vegas showroom with scantily clad dancing showgirls (Denise Green, Ariel Lynch, Marnie Meuser, Jessica Nelson, Ellen Peterson and Wendy Swee). Krueger’s scat-singing soulful solo is dazzling. Her knockout of a performance is even heightened with “Find Your Grail,” warranting fanatical applause in the middle of the song. As Act 1 nears its end, the out-of-breath audience dies of laughter when the French Taunter, played by Francis Tau’a, takes the stage. I’ve witnessed many side-splitting stage moments on Maui, but this one will be lauded for years.

“Spamalot” does not let up in Act 2. Shore delights with her “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” punctuated with a superb tap solo. John Williams, on stilts as the head of the Knights Who Say Ni, gets huge laughs before his scene even begins. When the terrifying knights demand that Arthur produce a Broadway show, Dale Button as Sir Robin sings, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway, if you don’t have any Jews.” This riotous number, with exceptional choreography by Kalani Whitford, evolves into a parody of the challenging bottle dance from “Fiddler on the Roof,” followed by Eiting’s perfectly timed tag line, “Well I guess we better find some Jews.”

Not to be left out is Sir Lancelot’s (Tau’a) storming of Swamp Castle to rescue the effeminate Prince Herbert played by Stephen Webb. Keith Welch as Herbert’s father impresses with his timing and spot-on Scottish accent, especially in his repeated demands of “No singing” to conductor Vania Jerome and the orchestra (Perry Gragas, Cody Sarmiento, Beth Sederstrom, Kalen Willits and Troy Otto). When Lancelot defends Herbert with an eloquent out-of-place speech about love and tolerance, Welch counters with, “Oh my God you’re gay.” Webb then leads the outrageous “His Name is Lancelot” as lighting designer Amy Lord transforms the stage into a 1970s disco.

The genius of Eric Idle’s adaptation is its relentless mockery of all things Broadway and the musical genre. “Spamalot” melodramatically ties up neatly with a double-wedding happy ending and the quest for all to “Find Your Grail.”

During intermission, several audience members shared that “Spamalot” is a much-needed respite amidst a summer of tragic shootings and compared it to some of Maui’s best-ever productions. At curtain call, the cast, with the aid of projected lyrics and a bouncing grail, led a reprise of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” and the 250-plus in attendance were all singing merrily.

* Maui OnStage continues Monty Python’s “Spamalot” with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. Sundays through July 31 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40 and are available by calling 242-6969 or visiting www.mauionstage.com.