“Spamalot” – Phoenix Theatre and “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” – Actors Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ October 1, 2012


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ



Actors Theatre of Phoenix
Phoenix, AZ

After three weeks in Europe, I returned to a busy local theater scene where two shows, both local premieres, opened last month.  Phoenix Theatre opens its season with the wacky and zany musical “Spamalot,” while Actors Theatre looks at Apple’s founder and his deplorable use of his Chinese workers in the amusing but insightful “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”

“Spamalot” requires over-the-top zaniness.  The production starts slowly but builds to a superior second act where the entire cast finally captures the necessary comic antics to make audiences laugh wildly.

Based on the slapstick silliness of “Monty Python & the Holy Grail,” King Arthur searches and finds the Grail but he also stumbles upon a bride while the legend’s familiar characters parade about with merry abandon.  The show’s score won’t leave audiences humming but the lyrics and book are deft and humorous.

With a few notable exceptions, the cast seems stymied initially by the mandated mockeries and utter stupidity of the carryings-on until everybody gets with it hysterically as the second act begins.  Joseph Cannon’s King Arthur is acceptable but he could milk more humor from his character.  Robert Kolby Harper’s bizarrely effete Robin and Toby Yatso’s shenanigans as the gay Lancelot are the production’s highlights.  Jonathan Brian Furedy plays several roles with comic abandon, while Eddie Maldonado sashays amusingly as he woos Lancelot much to his super masculine Dad’s disgust.  Initially disappointing, Kimberly Hamby, who sings nicely, finally captures the Lady of the Lake’s zaniness as she becomes Arthur’s Queen Guinevere.

Michael Barnard’s zippy staging and Harper’s frivolously sardonic choreography add to the show’s foolishness as do colorfully askance sets and madcap costumes.  Alan Ruch’s accomplished orchestra breezes lustily through the score.

“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” takes liberties with the facts but it’s still an amazing look by playwright Mike Daisey at Apple’s creator.  The one-man play features local actor/director Ron May in a smashing and compelling performance as the play twists and turns Apple’s bizarre leader into the megalomaniac genius who ignores his workers to make his company a huge moneymaker.  To give away Daisey’s insights would spoil the experience of witnessing this often comedic look at Jobs but the play never fails to graphically paint how Jobs uses and abuses his workers.  Matthew Wiener stages it simply with the appropriate wink and a blink.

“Spamalot” continues through October 14.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: B

“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” continues through October 7.  For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order tickets online at www.actorstheatrephx.org.

Grade: A

3 Responses to ““Spamalot” – Phoenix Theatre and “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” – Actors Theatre”

  1. The reviews are in and Spamalot is a hit! « phxtheatre said:

    Oct 04, 12 at 15:24

    […] The Curtain Critic […]

  2. JadeD said:

    Oct 05, 12 at 09:19

    Loved! Loved! Loved the show! Huge Python Fan!!!!! Saw a matinee and laughed so hard I was about to cry. I disagree with this critique in part, a show must build. I saw the production on Broadway as well as in Las Vegas, this production was given a fresh perspective! Each performer in this production made the roles their own, as opposed to regurgitating what we have been programmed to expect. With Python you must embrace
    the unexpected, If you already anticipate a laugh or joke is on the horizon, it simply isn’t as funny! My hats off to all involved, I intend on going back for a second dose.

  3. CR said:

    Oct 23, 12 at 00:00

    I would have to agree with Chris. Even though there was some amazing work with choreography and some well done singing, there were many times in the show where it was dead. This means that the show had lost momentum many times to the point that it dropped completely and I was no longer in the world of Spamalot. If they had more time to continue working on the show, I would suggest working more on making the characters their own. I was caught offguard so many times by the uncanny resemblance to the actual British comedy troupe that I am forced to believe that the only actor’s work that took place was to watch the Monty Python over and over again.

    The technical aspects were great! The set was colorful and moved smoothly throughout the show. Great job to the crew! The lights were fun, colorful, and helped illuminate the different worlds. I for one could not believe the sound quality for such a small space. It was crystal clear and for that I applaud thee. Costumes were fun and entertaining ( I am smiling about speedo outfit currently.) Props were great but slightly disappointed about the size of the coconuts.

    Overall, it was a good experience of getting myself acquainted with the Phoenix Theatre and do plan to see many more.