Having been around almost as long as the Edinburgh Festival itself, the Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association (MAMA) return this April for their 66th annual offering. Sandwiched in between 2016’s Guys and Dolls and next year’s production of Calamity Jane, the MAMA overlords clearly decided it was time for something completely different with Monty Python’s self-aware musical extravaganza, Spamalot.
Unsurprisingly, writer Eric Idle has cherry-picked the best scenes from the movie(s) to recreate on stage, and MAMA pull each of them off with varying degrees of success. For example, The Knights Who Say Ni are led with appropriate zaniness by Jane Renton and the tricky killer rabbit is sidestepped with some excellent metatheatrical involvement of the stage hands. Less convincingly, the Black Knight’s dismemberment feels a little clumsy (although admittedly, it’s a logistical nightmare for any production company, let alone an amateur one).
Aside from these cinematic favourites, the other major source of the musical’s humour is, of course, its songs. Unfortunately, the rapid pace of the lyricism means that some of the clever wordplay is lost on the audience in earlier numbers, but the company do settle into their stride midway through the first act. In particular, Alison Henry’s impressive set of pipes are given a thorough airing as the Lady of the Lake, while Caitlin McGillivray’s short vocal cameo is an all-too-brief delight. Together, the twin singing talents of the girls represent the strongest points of the whole show and it’s a shame McGillivray isn’t given more time to pastiche Mariah Carey/Christina Aguilera-style ostentatiousness.
For the most part, MAMA’s delivery of the classic gags come off, though a few jokes do miss their mark and as is sung in the chorus of You Won’t Succeed on Broadway, the show could do with a star – it’s lacking some finesse and flair in its central characters. Mark Becher is adequate in his debut role as Arthur and his knights are competent without being spectacular – despite the vocal impressiveness of Henry and McGillivray, the show could use a mite more pizzazz.
But what it lacks in individual brilliance, it more than makes up for in a sense of community; the diverse age range of the cast engenders an endearing togetherness in the production. In particular, Cathy McAlpine shines as God – an apt appointment, given her status as the company’s longest serving member. Though it’s tucked a bus ride away from the capital in Musselburgh, MAMA’s Spamalot is a romp enjoyable enough to warrant the journey.