New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ does celebrity casting right

“Mean Girls” film star Jonathan Bennett joins fellow Broadway stars in the revival of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” proving that sometimes stunt casting has the potential to actually work.
Jonathan Bennett with the cast of Spamalot. (Courtesy of Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

The recent Broadway revival of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” opened on Nov. 16  at the St. James Theater with a stacked cast. The musical is a parody of 1975’s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — which itself is a comedic retelling of the story of King Arthur. “Spamalot” follows King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as they face obstacles in a search for the Holy Grail, which was the physical representation of Christendom and would provide evidence that Jesus Christ was real.

However, the plot is often derailed for the sake of comedy.

One of these comedic scenes begins with Jonathan Bennett as Sir Robin trotting on stage followed by three wandering minstrels dressed in green jester costumes. The minstrels applaud Sir Robin for his bravery in his journey for the Holy Grail, serenading him with “Brave Sir Robin” as he adventures along. Once Sir Robin encounters the Black Knight, who refuses to let him pass through his part of the forest, he is so frightened that he ends up peeing his pants and running away.

The production has a cast full of Broadway stars such as Ethan Slater, Alex Brightman, Leslie Kritzer, Christopher Fitzgerald and James Monroe Iglehart. In late January, “Spamalot” added Bennett to the cast, despite him lacking the Broadway credits that his fellow performers have. Bennett, known for his role as Aaron Samuels in the 2004 film “Mean Girls,” made his Broadway debut as Sir Robin on Jan. 23.

Actors who’ve attempted to transition from film and television acting to stage acting have often received poor reviews, no matter how breathtaking their on-screen work has been. Take Colleen Ballinger’s brief stint in the cast of “Waitress” in 2019, which, even before her current controversies, saw abysmal reviews from audiences. Due to this phenomenon, stunt casting — a term used to describe adding celebrities to Broadway casts — has often been criticized.

Bennett not only has the talent to justify his casting, but he also recognizes the privilege he has with this opportunity and has expressed outpouring gratitude on his social media. This bleeds through the entirety of his performance. Sure, Bennett doesn’t have the musical theater experience his fellow castmates do, but his vocals are still very impressive. What makes Bennett’s performance so standout is the excitement and joy he carries with him on stage.

The production holds space for fourth wall breaks and improv, oftentimes adding a fun dynamic to the show. In the second act, the Lady of the Lake (Kritzer) sings a song titled “Diva’s Lament.” Despite her large role in the show’s first act, the character has been offstage for the majority of act two. So when the curtains drop between scenes, she steps out to complain about her lack of stage time. She belts out, “Whatever happened to my / Not yours, not yours, not yours, Jonathan Bennett / But my / Part?” This blatantly calls out Bennett’s fame. The production actually making light of its stunt casting is both refreshing and thematically congruent with the rest of the show, creating a fun treat for audiences that do get to experience Bennett’s run.

For a show that is essentially joke after joke, the campy energy that Bennett brings makes perfect sense in “Spamalot.” There’s no denying that Bennett is a stunt cast, but there’s also no denying that he keeps up with the Broadway professionals he’s performing beside.

Bennett is playing Sir Robin in “Spamalot” until April 28. If you get a chance, don’t miss the opportunity to see him and the rest of the highly talented cast perform this hilarious show.

Contact Skylar Boilard at [email protected].

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