In a rare photo, Monty Python co-founders, from left, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle (book/lyrics/music for "Spamalot"), Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam and the legendary John Cleese are shown at the Hollywood Bowl in 1982 where they filmed the blockbuster hit "Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl."   COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
In a rare photo, Monty Python co-founders, from left, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle (book/lyrics/music for "Spamalot"), Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam and the legendary John Cleese are shown at the Hollywood Bowl in 1982 where they filmed the blockbuster hit "Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl." COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
Staged in the historic Potter Auditorium in Chatfield, a star in its own right, the zany, hit musical comedy "Spamalot" opened a dazzling 2013 Western Days run.

A rousing standing ovation was accorded the sterling efforts of the Wits' End Theatre as the company assembled on stage before a cheering audience for the grand finale, "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life."

"Spamalot" is a wild parody of the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." The Broadway musical has won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, while earning 14 Tony nominations.

The name itself is derived from the line in the movie: "We eat ham, and jam and Spam a lot."

Monty Python originated in Great Britain in 1969 with "Monty Python's Flying Circus" for BBC-TV. Other TV shows and films have followed.

In 1982, we attended an invitational screening in Hollywood at the Directors Guild on Sunset Blvd. for the movie "Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl." Members of Monty Python were the featured guests.

Python Eric Idle went on to write the book, lyrics and music for the 2005 musical "Spamalot," directed by Mike Nichols, while another Python John Cleese, whose voice is heard in the opening of the play, has become an awards-winning British actor.

During a lobby visit, Margaret Perkins of Chatfield commented that Michael Palin, an original Python, now hosts a popular travelogue on PBS-TV.

"Spamalot" marks the tenth Wits' End Theatre production.

On opening night, co-director Tony Cole came on stage to introduce Merit Scholar and cast member Annaliese Johnson of Chatfield. Dan Christianson, chairman of F&M Community Banks, presented Cole with a check for $1,000 to sponsor the second weekend of "Spamalot" performances.

Last year Charles Aug, president of F&M, starred in "The Last Boy in Blue," staged for Western Days by Wits' End Theatre and Joe Chase, who wrote the script and was featured in the cast.

Co-directing with Tony Cole is Joan Verdegan with inspired musical direction by Tyler Simpson. "Spamalot" features a stellar cast of madcap players with a creative and skilled crew and support staff. As a commanding company, they present a thoroughly enjoyable Monty Python stage experience.

As the house lights dim, our attention is riveted in a wash of colors to eye-arresting sets, dazzling costumes and a colorful arsenal of assorted props, including a stuffed cow that becomes airborne and a giant-sized rabbit in reference to the legendary Trojan Horse.

Led by King Arthur (Joe Chase) and his loyal Patsy (Al Dietz) the ensemble of players engage in assorted antics with off-the-wall results.

Particularly dazzling are the gowns worn by the Lady of the Lake (Sam Gibson) in a shimmering glow of Broadway glamour.

Tightly blocked by the directors and dressed to the nines by the very skilled and imaginative team of costumers, the company of "Spamalot" players are also favored with sets that are striking to see and that also dramatically frame the many magical moments being staged.

The uncluttered stage design, while setting the time and place, also affords the players focused exits and entrances from several levels. The clouds overhead are interesting accents, as well.

Colorful bits of rapid-fire stage business are enjoyed in the Camelot scene, resembling a Las Vegas casino. The spotlighted tap-dancing routines showcase amazing footwork.

Act I concludes as stage action accelerates the zany madness on the move as the players exit in haste up the aisles.

Act II then opens on a stage with new accents, including the expansive forest, complete with frothy ground fog.

Other show-stopping sketches include the collection of severed arms while the ensemble player chants, "Alms for the poor..." and the campy Swamp Castle scenes with Sir Herbert (Mitch Gibson) and Sir Lancelot (Zach Bouska).

"Whatever Happened to My Part?" sung by a chagrined Lady of the Lake is a second act spark of stage energy.

King Arthur (Joe Chase) with a strong singing voice and an always credible portrayal is a steady constant that gives the fast-paced show substance and form amid all the staged merriment. Chase has appeared in all 10 shows for Wits' End Theatre.

A bright light in the cast this year is Kirby O'Connor making his debut with Wits' End Theatre.

At the very heart of this entertaining production are the talented members of the pit orchestra under the direction of Tyler Simpson, featuring the talents of Soren Docken on drums with Robyn Loewen and Valerie Wilson on the piano and keyboard.

House manager Kelly Manahan with her personable ways and tireless efforts, along with those of her family and the others in the company, are to be acknowledged with appreciation as well.

In the decades-long traditions of Western Days and the annual musicals, members of the Charles Johnson, Sr., family are to be recalled as principal players and sponsors. Often they have taken to the stage with stellar and memorable results. Who can forget the excitement of "The Music Man" and the Chatfield visit of showman Meredith Willson?

Potter Auditorium and Wits' End Theatre are a promising duo.

Congratulations!