An actor must know how to act before he or she can successfully act goofy.
And if it’s a musical comedy, that actor better be able to sing and, as needed, dance while acting goofy.
Fortunately for local audiences, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” opening tonight on the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Mainstage, features actors who can do all three, and do it well.
I must confess a bit of prejudice before I get into the details. I’ve been a Monty Python fan since Dean Martin introduced some of the group's earliest sketches on his mid-1970s summer variety show.
Being a fan of the British comedy troupe also gives me a critical eye toward anyone performing their material, so I was prepared to cast aspersions at any “Spamalot” bits not done well.
But there weren’t any.
It’s a hoot and a howl from opening to closing curtain.
Like the Flying Circus, “Spamalot” is essentially a collection of comedy sketches, wrapped, in this case, around the legend of King Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail.
HOLY GRAIL, BATMAN!
Crestview actor Nick Trolian excels as Arthur, King of the Britains, playing the role with delightful pomposity while remaining seemingly oblivious to the lunacy surrounding him.
“Spamalot” puts considerable emphasis on The Lady of the Lake, a character missing both from some tellings of the legend as well as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the film that inspired the stage musical.
As The Lady, Meghan Erlacher’s extraordinary pipes steal the show on numbers including “Come With Me,” “The Song That Goes Like This” and “The Diva’s Lament.” Her voice is stunning; her comedic timing is superb.
As Arthur’s faithful servant Patsy, Stephen Shouse packs a backpack full of impish, youthful enthusiasm.
Another standout is Sean Royal as Sir Lancelot, a knight with a secret. Lancelot gets to dance a lot. During “His Name is Lancelot,” Royal’s costume comes with — I’m making an assumption here — enviable augmentation.
As fellow knights Sir Robin, Sir Galahad and Sir Bedevere, Javonte Coleman, Donovan Black and David Simmons admirably complete Arthur's crew, each getting an opportunity to do a fun bit of his shtick.
A comedy with cruddy timing falls flatter than plague victim Not Dead Fred — a fun role well played by Sivu Schlegel, who also delighted as Prince Herbert.
To everyone’s delight, NWFSC’s “Spamalot” gallops along at a merry clip, barely giving the audience a chance to catch its collective breath before the next bit of tomfoolery.
As director Joe Taylor observed before the opening curtain, “The show the audience sees is actually a quarter of what’s going on backstage.”
You needn’t have seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” beforehand, but it does make a good primer — or refresher.
Those who, like me, have been Pythonized will giddily catch subtle homages to several favorite Flying Circus sketches, and be pleased to be in on the jokes.
A standing ovation is due the college’s Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts Division, the cast and crew for livening up our summer with sheer, enjoyable silliness.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT:“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Northwest Florida State College’s summer musical comedy
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 16-19
WHERE: Mattie Kelly Performing Arts Center Mainstage
COST: $27 adults; $22 youths 18 and under
NOTES: Purchase advance tickets at the Box Office, 729-6000 or www.MattieKellyArtsCenter.org. Day-of-show tickets available at the door if available.
Email News Bulletin Arts Editor Brian Hughes, firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter, @cnbBrian, or call 682-6524.