In a musty, medievalist library somewhere, there could be a King Arthur expert who dismissed Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” because, well, it’s a cartoon and then cringed at Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” because the story is told from the female characters’ point of view.
That one, Very Serious scholar probably shouldn’t venture out to see “Monty Python’s Spamalot” this weekend and next at Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre because, with sneering Frenchmen, flying cows and clapped-together coconut shells standing in for hoof beats, it’s the kind of play that would have King Arthur “rolling over in his grave.”
At least, that’s how reviewer Elysa Gardner described the Eric Idle musical for USA Today in 2005, adding the spoof would have the mythical king “laughing until his armor rattles.”
“It’s filled with ridiculous situations,” Kristen Peterman of Wilkes-Barre admitted with a laugh. “Then you add singing and dancing and the chance to ham it up as much as possible. It’s going to be great.”
Peterman, who auditioned for “Spamalot” so she’d have a chance to work with veteran local thespian Joe Sheridan, who is co-directing with Christa Manning, was pleasantly surprised to find herself in the leading-lady role of The Lady of the Lake, singing opposite Sheridan, who stepped in when needed for the role of King Arthur.
“She’s sassy, a real diva,” Peterman described her character, who presides over the Laker Girls and encourages the knights to “find your grail.”
Along with that quest, the knights of the round table get to visit a Very Expensive forest, see King Arthur defeat the Black Knight and watch Sir Lancelot embrace his true sexuality.
Along the way, they explain life in Camelot thusly: “We dance when e’re we’re able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impecc-able.”
It’s not always easy for these guys from the table.
“Our shows are for-mid-able. But many times, we’re given rhymes that are quite unsing-able.”
But sing they will, all decked out in costumes Maureen Hozempa of Dallas has been crafting for weeks.
“I’ve loved ‘Monty Python’ since I was really little, and when something is so iconic, you want to make sure you do it right,” Hozempa said, describing how she has been making the men’s armor from craft foam, sewing gowns for the Lady of the Lake and outfitting the Laker Girls, including herself, in green patterned tutus and pompons.
The set, designed to resemble a casino, will “make you swear you’re in Las Vegas,” Sheridan said, and the orchestra has been moved to the back so there will be more room for movement downstage.
The show reflects the hard work of many people, Sheridan said, and Monty Python fans won’t be disappointed.
In fact, maybe even that serious Arthurian scholar will decide he likes it. After all, as one Brother Maynard would say of the Tony Award-winning show, “It’s more fun than the black death.”