Who knew Jerry Lewis was God? I certainly didn't. But it's the unmistakable voice of Jerry Lewis you hear when God appears to King Arthur in Spamalot at Boulder's Dinner Theatre and instructs him to seek the Holy Grail. Lewis doesn't actually appear on stage, of course, but it turns out that Lewis is a friend of BDT artistic director Michael J. Duran and agreed to lend those familiar tones and that well-loved demanding whine to this production. And so God is represented by that voice and a pair of huge cardboard feet descending from the ceiling. What is this Holy Grail, the knights wonder, staring upward. Some kind of cup? Well, couldn't they just buy a new one? It's a metaphor, Arthur explains, a symbol. "What are you doing pissing around in Camelot?" God-Lewis interrupts. "Stop looking up my skirt...just find the Grail, okay? And get on with it. These people" — he means us in the audience — "don't have all night."
We do, actually, and a fine night it is. This musical, in the best tradition of such punny, capering, mildly scatalogical (lots of fart jokes) and altogether lunatic English comedy as Fawlty Towers, was written by Eric Idle and based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's also the theater's holiday offering, a vivid standout in a field of too-familiar elves, sentimental Christmas Carols and staged versions of ancient feel-good movies. And there's a nice touch at the end of the evening when the cast appears in the lobby to collect money for the efforts of Doctors Without Borders — a truly excellent organization — in the Philippines.
The dialogue is a hoot. Arthur and his faithful and much-burdened servant Patsy gallop around the stage on invisible horses, while Patsy makes clopping noises with half coconuts — a pretty familiar sight gag. But when they seek to enter a castle, a guard stops them with a complaint: There were no coconuts in medieval England. A learned discussion ensues about how that coconut might have got there. It involves the migratory patterns of swallows, the differences between English and African swallows, and the weight of the average swallow compared to that of the average coconut. When Arthur tells a raggedy subject he's the king, the subject turns out to be an anarchist with a lot to say about the anti-democratic nature of monarchy. A princess locked in the tower by her strict father is actually a delicate princeling yearning for gay love.
Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through March 1, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com.
You probably remember the fluffy white rabbit that turns out to be a savage killer from the film, but did you remember the cow that comes flying over the parapet of a hostile French castle, or the large wooden rabbit the knights trundle on to use as a Trojan horse? Except that they've forgotten one crucial part of the tactic: They're supposed to hide inside the beast.
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The songs, by Idle and John Du Prez, are blithe and tuneful, and there are clever sendups of all kinds of Broadway tropes. There's "The Song That Goes Like This," which parodies Andrew Lloyd Webber; The Lady of the Lake's tantrum, "The Diva's Lament" ("Whatever happened to my part?"); and a hilarious take-off on Fiddler on the Roof: "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" (If You Don't Have Any Jews)," which begins with a patter-speak intro reminiscent of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. You also catch references to West Side Story, A Chorus Line, The Wizard of Oz and every Disney musical you've ever had to sit through.
Piper Lindsay Arpan, who performed in Spamalot on Broadway and toured with the traveling company, has assembled a talented cast: Wayne Kennedy trying desperately to hold onto his dignity as poor, puzzled Arthur; Alicia Dunfee as an imperious Lady of the Lake; Bob Hoppe as the not-very-brave Sir Robin, who shits himself in the face of danger; Brett Ambler in a series of parts, including wistful Prince Herbert, who can rise and fall between baritone and soprano with delicious ease; and Brian Jackson as, among others, Sir Lancelot and a jeering French guard. Everyone is clearly having a blast. When our actor-waitress, flushed and slightly breathless, brought coffee to the table at intermission, we asked if she enjoyed being in the show. She nodded emphatically: "We just run around and change clothes and giggle and run around some more and giggle again," she said.
You can use a good giggle this holiday season, can't you?