Wild, Wacky Python Wit A Hit In 'Spamalot' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 15 November 2013 17:10

It’s always nice to have a hit on your hands.

That’s what original Monty Python member Eric Idle discovered soon after the 2005 Broadway opening of his musical comedy “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

Monty Python's Spamalot  Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThat also is what the majority of theater groups — professional and amateur — discover soon after the openings of their productions.

Elkhart Civic Theatre is no different. “Spamalot,” based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” opened Nov. 8 in the Bristol Opera House. Initially scheduled for seven performances, an eighth was added before opening and a ninth, immediately after.

Monty Python's Spamalot Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThere is no doubt that early response was from Python fans. The wildly off-center humor of the original six Pythons and their wacky adjunct players has a great appeal, especially to those who have followed the group since its inception in the mid 1970s. It can, however, touch the funny bone of anyone totally unaware of Monty Python.

“Spamalot” doesn’t waste a minute. The pre-show speech is the recorded voice of Python John Cleese who urges audience members to “let your cellphones and pagers ring willy-nilly.” The tone is set and goes onward and upward from there as the curtain opens to find villagers in Finland (?) dancing and singing “The (literally) Fisch Slapping Song.”

Jolted back to medieval England, the plot (???) follows King Arthur (Rick Nymeyer) and his faithful squire Patsy (John Shoup) on their quest to recruit knights for Arthur’s proposed round table.

Before they reach Camelot (by way of Las Vegas), Arthur has been joined by Sir Lancelot (Geoff Trowbridge), Sir Robin (Robert Windsor), Sir Galahad (Deron Bergstresser) and Sir Bedevere (Brent Graber) as well as a strange conglomeration of passers-by, friendly and not-so. Among the former is the Lady of the Lake (Adrienne Nesbitt), a diva for the Middle Ages.

Monty Python's Spamalot Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThe high-spirited ensemble numbers choreographed by Jackiejo Brewers and delivered enthusiastically by members of the Ladies and Knights Dance Ensembles, definitely are high spots in the show. The women become Laker Girls, Camelot Dancers (a la Vegas), Grail Girls and French Citizens. The men portray French Guards and Knights. All are Bodies, Villagers and anything else that springs up along the way to Camelot.

Zach Rivers becomes a quartet of characters — an Historian/Not Dead Fred (a plague victim who refuses to stay on the cart)/a Minstrel and Prince Herbert, who gives a new twist to the prisoner in the tower. In probably the only non-singing role, Tim Yoder earns non-stop laughter as characters well known to Python fans — the French Taunter, the Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter.

Monty Pytho's Spamalot Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INOpening night audience members could be heard humming (or singing along) with Patsy as he bolstered up the sagging spirits of the king with the show’s most familiar song “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.” Bergstrasser and Nesbitt went on and on in “The Song That Goes Like This,” a tribute (?) to Andrew Lloyd Webber, while Windsor led the ensemble in the cautionary tale “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.”

Under the direction of percussionist Mark Swendsen, the talented eight-member orchestra did an excellent job with the score by Idle and John Du Prez. It was a pleasure to listen to them, whether supporting the singers or instrumental only.

Shoup’s set design easily morphs into many locations including castles, a forest and a casino. Especially impressive was the giant Trojan Rabbit, not to be confused with the deadly Killer Rabbit which appeared later. Linda Wiesinger served as costume coordinator for the many outfits required, most of which were as period appropriate as possible. The animation and sound effects well integrated throughout the show are credited to Brian MacGowan and Gary Cobbum, with light design by Randy Zonker.

Under the direction of Penny Meyers and assistant director Annette Kaczanowski, “Spamalot” obviously is living up to the expectations of long-time Monty Python fans and making a lot of new fans all eager to “Find Your Grail.”

”MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT” plays through Nov. 24 in the Bristol Opera House, 210 E. Vistula Street. There are waiting lists for the sold out performances and may be a few seats left for the recently-added Nov. 22. For information, call 848-4116 or visit

Maintaining Mendacity No Easy Task PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:53

Ever since George Washington ‘fessed up to chopping down that cherry tree, the path to a good — and successful ­— life has been paved with honesty.

It's unfortunate how things change.

Perfect Mendacity  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThat path is now strewn with pitfalls, primarily those created by lies, anywhere from the unwittingly innocent fibs of childhood to the frequently intentional whoppers of adulthood. No matter how well-intentioned, there is no doubt that a lie of any dimension will return to bite the teller in the proverbial backside. And that, too often, can be deadly.

The question facing scientist Walter Kreutzer (Ted Manier) the increasingly uncertain protagonist of Jeffrey Wells play “Perfect Mendacity,” which opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Warner Studio Theatre, is not whether or not to lie but how to lie without getting caught. The latter is a tricky procedure especially since Walter is facing a corporate polygraph test.

Perfect Mendacity  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAlthough written in 2008, Wells’ tale was eerily prophetic, considering the now-international focus on the revelation of secrets by computer hackers who seemingly delight in uncovering heretofore untouchable governmental machinations.

The SBCT production is played on an excellent set designed by the group’s emerging scenic ace Jacee Rohlck who has managed to create four definitely separate locations in the limited space without the use of solid walls.

The quintet of players handles the mass of Wells dialogue well if, at times, a bit methodically. Manier especially takes his emotional level from hesitant to frantic as his efforts to resolve the consequences of his actions seem destined to fall apart. His frustration and increasing desperation are palpable.

At his initial session with D’Avore Peoples (David Smith), whose stock in trade is preparing people to pass a polygraph (aka lie detector) test, Walter begins to realize that more than his current descent into mendacity will come to light.

His unraveling begins. During this unraveling, the audience is faced with a number of questions.

Perfect Mendacity  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreDid the microbiologist himself leak the memo of his company’s sale of a biological weapon to a middle-eastern government or did he set up his Moroccan wife Samira (Tia Patrick) as the informant? Was she an unknowing dupe or a knowing participant? Who among his corporate cohorts can be trusted? Given the weapon’s enormous potential for destruction, was he a hero or a traitor? If truly the former, why be so afraid of corporate discovery and why does he eventually loose everything?

Obviously, the “good guys” don’t always win.

Under the direction of Jim Geisel, the action moves along smoothly if sometimes monochromatically. The aim is to let Walter loose his head while all around him are hanging on to theirs. Tom Peterson as his co-worker Roger Stanhope gives a slick portrayal of an ambiguous corporate officer while Judy Spigle, saved for the final scene, is a deliciously devilish doctor who kicks the energy level up many decibel levels.

If corporate espionage is all to common today, showing its effect on a perpetrator who suffers real pangs of remorse may be the most perfect mendacity of all.

”PERFECT MENDACITY” plays today through Sunday in the SBCT Warner Studio Theatre at 403 N. Main St., South Bend. For performance times and reservations call 234-1112 or visit

Christie Mystery Weaves Tangled Web PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 24 October 2013 15:14

It would be difficult to name another 20th century author with as much still currently-active output as the late Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller Christie.

Spider's Web  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreOf her 66 novels and 14 short stories, 12 became plays and many more found extended life on movie and/or television screens. One of the very few which reversed that path (play to novel) is “Spider’s Web,” which opened Friday evening on the Wilson Mainstage Auditorium of South Bend Civic Theatre.

Focusing on none of Christie’s most famous sleuths — Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence — it also was unique in that it was written specifically at the request of Margaret Lockwood, a popular British film star of the 1940s-50s, who tired of playing “heavy” roles and requested a lighter character of the prolific Mrs. Christie.

Spider's Web   South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe result was Clarissa Hailsham-Brown, given a spirited portrayal here by Eva Cavadini. Clarissa is the second wife diplomat Henry (Jeff Starkey) and stepmother to his teenage daughter Pippa (Liz Carrier). On hand for the weekend in their rented country estate are three guests: Sir Rowland Delahaye (Roy Bronkema) and Hugh Birch (Gary Oesch), both older men in the midst of a contest featuring three types of port, and Jeremy Warrender (Zach Gassman), a younger man breathless from trying to break an existing record of running to the lodge gates and back three times. The contests have been set up by Clarissa to fill the time originally scheduled for a now-rained-out golf match.

And that’s only the first 10 minutes.

A change of plans means Henry must hold a secret meeting at the manor house, no small task given the company at hand. Also popping in — and out — are Mildred Peake (Mary Ann Moran), a jovial senior citizen with a cottage on the estate who serves as gardener; Elgin (Douglas Streich), the very proper butler; and Oliver Costello (a properly smarmy Reg Wagle), current boyfriend of Henry’s ex-wife, whose less-than-honorable intentions are quickly — and permanently — cut short.

Spider's Web  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreEnter a bumbling policeman, Inspector Lord (Travis Mayer), and his sidekick, Constable Jones (Patrick Trimboli whose Chaplin-esque skip is more bewildering than funny), add a hidden recess used in past centuries as a hiding place for priests and an alternate egress from the manor and, as a non-Christie character would declare, “The game’s afoot.”

As the long finger of the law points from one suspect to another, hostess Clarissa, whose favorite game is “supposing,” weaves convoluted alibis for each one. No surprise that these fail to put anyone in the clear and, indeed, prove much more confusing both to characters and audience.

Because it was written specifically for one actress may be the reason that this is the weakest in Dame Agatha’s list of mysteries. There is little suspense and the final exposure of the killer and motivation seems merely a solution for the sake of a solution rather than a surprising revelation.

No doubt aim at breaking up the rambling blocks of dialogue which are Christie’s trademark, director Jewel Abram-Copenhaver has underscored the most obvious with passages of familiar classical music as if to say “Don’t take this too seriously.”

It is a wise direction and one which the company — as well as the “cast” of the pre-show scenario (check period set pieces and “actors” throughout the lobbies) — takes under advisement. All deliver very credible performances, especially Cavadini and Bronkema, with Streich proving again that he can “butle” with the very best and Moran offering a giddy take on the obligatory nattering senior.

The all-encompassing set design by David Chudzynski is well-executed and affords the actors almost too much playing room. Somehow, mysteries seem to play better when the surroundings are a bit more claustrophobic.

“SPIDER’S WEB” plays tonight through Sunday and Oct. 30 through Nov. 3 in the Wilson Mainstage Auditorium in the theater at 401 N. Main Street. For performance times and reservations, call 234-1112 or visit

'Addams Family' To Visit Kalamazoo PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 21 October 2013 19:24

The Addams Family Miller Auditorium Kalamazoo MI“They’re creepy and they’re kooky,

            Mysterious and spooky,

They’re altogether ooky,

            The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum

            When people come to see-um,

They really are a scre-um

            The Addams Family.

   (neat, sweet, petite)

So get a witch’s shawl on,

            A broomstick you can crawl on

We’re going to make a call on

            The Addams Family!”

The familiar theme for the TV version of Charles Addams’ famous cartoons in The New Yorker magazine is one song you won’t hear in composer Andrew Lippa’s score for the touring production set to play Tuesday and Wednesday evening in Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich.

All the Addamses — Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma, Uncle Fester and even Lurch — will be ready to greet visitors at 7:30 pm. Also invited for dinner are Wednesday’s boyfriend Lucas Beinenke and his parents, Mal and Alice.

Word is this will be a ”spooktacular” meal. It seems everyone has something to hide and more than a few skeletons in their closets.

Book for this new Addams Family adventure is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice who also are responsible for “Jersey Boys.”

Tickets range from $35 to $58. For reservations, call (269) 387-2300 or visit

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