The first rule about Monty Python is that there are no rules. No joke is too silly, too overdone or taboo.
That would explain the almost giddy atmosphere at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre just before the curtain goes up on the first show of its 41st season, “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
The musical is billed as “lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 cult classic film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Like the movie, the play follows the plight of King Arthur and his right-hand man/pack mule Patsy as they traverse the land in search of knights to fill his Round Table, and then on to find the Holy Grail.
Diehard fans of the film will find themselves face to face with favorite characters like the Black Knight and the French taunters, and even get to relive oft-quoted bits like debating the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow or whatever it is the Knights Who Formerly Said Ni now say.
What makes this production so delicious, however, is its satisfying evolution into a grade A musical on The Rep’s stage. Sifted down to a mere 8-person cast, actors and set pieces and props and costumes all move seamlessly — and at a breakneck pace, no less — in and out of each scene, all while delivering the signature slapstick that Monty Python is known for.
The script is built to give more backstory on the main characters, which makes the audience actually care for these personas instead of/along with waiting for the next punchline. But the only way to pull that off is to craft a cast with no weak links, and director Melissa Rain Anderson has done it.
King Arthur (James Lloyd Reynolds) leads the troop with the bravado and vibrato fitting of a legendary ruler and Patsy (Ben Liebert, who played Scuttle in “Little Mermaid” last December) has more bright side optimism in his tap shoes than most who set foot on that stage. Carolann M. Sanita as the witchy Lady of the Lake channels all the divas who have gone before us with hilarious dramatics and a powerful voice on blast.
Sirs Galahad (Adam Kemmerer), Lancelot (Mike DiSalvo), Bedevere (Darryl Winslow) and Robin (Erik Keiser) all shine in grand song-and-dance numbers — sometimes as various characters — earning every bit of sparkling chain mail Broadway has to offer while poking fun at every Broadway trope along the way.
When it comes to The Rep’s production of “Spamalot,” you go for the laughs and you stay for the showmanship, making it the perfect piece to launch yet another successful season.
The show runs through Oct. 2. For showtimes and more information, or to purchase tickets online, visit The Rep’s website. You can also call (501) 378-0405 or visit the theater's box office downtown at 601 Main St., Little Rock.