Friday, January 7, 2011

Theatre Review: SPAMALOT at Drury Lane Oakbrook

I have to say Drury Lane Oakbrook has come a long way since their productions in the 90's that I used to attend all the time. They did good work with great performances trapped in cheap productions. You can't say that anymore. It feels like your going to a theatre that is alive and flourishing as opposed to something that was stuck in the 70's and was wilting away and dying and I am so proud of them for doing that. They opened last night with the regional premiere of the smash hit Tony Award-winning Best Musical, SPAMALOT, directed by William Osetek, Artistic Director at Drury Lane Theatre, the new production lovingly "ripped off" from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Their production of it was top notch the show not so much.

SPAMALOT debuted on Broadway in 2005 and ran for over 1,500 performances, received 14 Tony Award nominations, winning three including Best Musical, Best Featured Actress for a pre "Grey's Anatomy's" Sara Ramirez and for Best Director (Mike Nichols), as well as the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Musical. The original cast recording of Monty Python's Spamalot won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. This ode to the classic Monty Python humor which is adored by millions of fans worldwide, tells the legendary tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the Holy Grail. Along the way, they encounter a chorus line of beautiful dancing divas and knights, flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits and one legless knight with singing and dancing in a Las Vegas Revue setting.

At Drury Lane they pull all the stops out and it works for almost the entire show up until the last half hour when you feel like even the kitchen sink isn't going to be enough, and if they could they would have. David Kortemeier looking a lot like Tim Curry but singing with a stronger voice played the straight man to the insanity around him and did well with his trusted Patsy Matthew Cowle giving able support and making you feel for him not getting his moment until the second act's famous "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." As the other Knights John Sanders was all masculinity (or is he?) that he needed to be, Sean Allan Krill was a standout as Sir Galahad and sounded wonderful on one of the best songs in the show "The Song That Goes Like This" which I dare you not to laugh during the lyrics and how it's played. As Sir Robin Adam Pelty got his showstopper "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" and delivered it with zest and wit. Jackson Evans did well as the Historian and then swished it up as Prince Herbert. As The Lady of the Lake Broadway's Gina Milo has a gorgeous voice and good comedic timing but I thought lacked the over the top diva quality needed for the role to explode. Her "Diva Lament" got the crowd going but how could it not be with the lines that are built into it though she used some great pop inflections.

I applaud the rest of the cast both alive and inanimate (that bunny) for being able to do all that they did in timing, singing, dancing, and still not missed a chopped off arm or dancing Carmen Miranda's and the Laker Girls bit was hysterical. Tammy Mader deserves extra applause for that (when are we gonna get her back on stage?), The music director by Roberta Duchak (another 2nd City Diva who is missed and I keep meaning to pick up her solo CD. was excellent considering besides a few songs there really isn't a lot of general music to the show but handled well by Ben Johnson complete with picking up the mess left by the actors. I thought the costumes were ingenious and for the women were stunning and showy, the sets were all top of the line complete with drawbridges, Vegas neon lights, large trees, and anything else the imagination of theater could provide and the director William Osetek should be given Hosannas for what he did as a director. As many problems I had with the show I thought he turned in some great slapstick while reigning in everything else.

I think what I noticed here watching this excellent production of a so-so show was that it seemed to me that the Broadway creators were so desperate to have a hit show that they tailored the roles to the actors playing the knights all too well instead of making great characters that others could have a shot at. If you play Tim Curry you'll do well, if you play David Hyde Pierce or Christian Borle then your how can you go wrong. If you try to go off script then your screwed.

SPAMALOT previews December 30, opens January 6 and runs through March 6, 2011 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL. Tickets are already selling quickly.

The performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35), Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35) and 8 p.m. ($40), Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ($45), Saturdays at 5 p.m. ($45) and 8:30 p.m. ($46) and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($45) and 6 p.m. ($40). Lunch and dinner theater packages range from $49.75 to $68 depending on the day of the week. Student tickets start as low as $20 and Senior Citizen tickets start as low as $29 for matinees and $43.75 for a matinee luncheon package. For reservations, call the Drury Lane Theatre box office at 630.530.0111, call TicketMaster at 800.745.3000, or visit

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