The advance buzz has been overwhelming, and we have been inundated with questions about the new Broadway musical Spamalot. Did you like it? Did they do a good job adapting it for the stage? Is it all that? Did you have to see the movie to follow it? Yes, yes, yes, and no with superlatives all around for the entire team. How could anyone not like this affectionate send up of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, unless of course you are devoid of a sense of humor. The adaptation is amazing and then some with the added satire on Broadway musicals, especially skewing Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yes, indeed, we enthusiastically endorse Spamalot, an outrageously silly show and witty spoof, which will most assuredly entertain young as well as old.
Now we are not Python addicts. In fact neither of us had even seen any of the adored TV shows, or the successful film on which the musical is based, or heard any of the many albums until after it was announced Mike Nichols would be directing. Believe me it doesn’t matter if you know the implication of the killer rabbit, or about the black knight who refuses to stop fighting even after losing his arms and legs, or any of the other skits which find their way into the show. The collaborators are immensely inventive and find extremely witty ways of staging the material. However, if you are familiar with Monty Python’s stuff like most of the audience you will probably laugh at some of the skits just as they are beginning, which only adds to the contagiousness of the evening’s humor.
Eric Idle, who collaborated on the original screenplay with his fellow Pythons, has written the book here as well as the lyrics for the songs by John Du Prez. There isn’t much of a plot and it hardly exits at all except for an excuse for another musical number. King Arthur goes off on a journey in search of Knights with his loyal sidekick Patsy. The two clop along the stage on non existent horses, with Patsy clapping two coconuts together to replicate the sound of the horses. As the Knights begin their search for the Holy Grail, they encounter several of the same absurd challenges from the film, but now their ultimate quest is to reach Broadway, giving the creators many opportunities for new songs.
There are still the songs from the film and “Brave Sir Robin,” has been expanded upon but the surprise of the evening are the crowd pleasing new numbers that poke fun at Broadway musicals. The Kings do a bottle dance that is a send up of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The musical pays homage to Peter Allen with the gay “His Name is Lancelot” as well as spoofing “West Side Story,” and taking several jabs at Andrew Lloyd Webber, including the funny duet “The Song That Goes Like This.” In so doing the musical clearly pays homage to “The Producers” as well as “Forbidden Broadway,” but has nothing on “Urinetown,” a complete original in a class of its own.
The cast is terrific singing, dancing and joking with a committed seriousness and engaging relish for the task at hand that is just wonderful. With his rich voice Tim Curry anchors the evening with his drolly understated King Arthur. David Hyde Pierce plays several parts with deadpan captivating style and even takes a turn at the piano. His shy Sir Robin delivers a show stopping “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” spoofing “Fiddler on the Roof.” Hank Azaria is a riot as a sexually conflicted Lancelot and very funny as a Knight of Ni, and a haughty Frenchman. In supporting roles Michael McGrath and Christopher Sieber morph into several characters with winning comic style. The lone female Sara Ramirez lives up to all the hype almost steeling the show. As the Lady of the Lake she’s a belting diva with a sensational voice. Look for her when the Tony Awards are handed out.
Tim Hatley’s set and costumes compliment the show’s zany style and Hugh Vanstone’s lighting is excellent. Eric Idle & John Du Prez have been very clever at turning “Always Look on the Bright Side” into a sing a long at the show’s conclusion. What’s not to like about a musical that sends you out singing.
Monty Python’s Spamalot opened at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre 225 West 44th Street on March 17, 2005. For tickets call telecharge 212-239-6200 or at the box office.