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Do Go To Spamalot, Tis A Silly Place

Monday, July 17, 2006

Makes Ben Hur look like an epicIf you’re hesitating about going to see Spamalot because you think it will just be a bunch of Monty Python fans laughing at all the oft-quoted lines from the cult classic Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail – think again. Yes, Spamalot has all the classic routines from the film: “I thought we were an autonomous collective”, the Knights who say Nee, “it’s only a flesh wound…”, etc., but it also has some marvellously cheesy and hilarious musical numbers that are enjoyable whether you’re a Python fan or not.

I need not reiterate the plot, suffice to say that King Arthur and his merry knights receive instructions from God (voiced appropriately by Mr. John Cleese) to set out and search for the Holy Grail (not to be confused with the Holy Hand Grenade). Somewhere along the way the grail quest becomes a mission to put on their own Broadway show, and the rest pretty much writes itself. Well, that’s not specifically true, Eric Idle and his composing partner John Du Prez collected the best bits from the film, reorganized them and wrote a bunch of new songs. Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam will not be mentioned in this review. John Cleese has been. Graham Chapman is dead.

While I would have loved to have seen the Broadway cast with Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria, and Mike Nichols directing, I thought the cast on offer in Toronto were very good. They’re a touring cast, so they’ve performed the show already in a bunch of cities across the US. Michael Siberry as King Arthur has the toughest job of being the only relatively sane man amongst the chaos, but he has a terrific voice, despite being unable to count to three.

Very Rarely AbleDavid Turner as Sir Robin looks like a young Eric Idle (not a compliment mind you, just an observation), and he performs one of the show’s best musical numbers, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” (if you don’t have any Jews) with panache and style to spare. A few other good songs include: ‘His Name is Lancelot’ and “The Song That Goes Like This”

The real highlight was the taunting French knight, performed by Rick Holmes. He’s absolutely brilliant, not just copying John Cleese, but adding his own uniquely funny moments.

Pia Glenn as the Lady of the Lake is also very funny, and is the best example of why the show works for a general audience and not just Pythonians. She is the show’s official Diva – note the capital ‘D’ – and Idle and Du Prez give her a chance to lampoon all of the standard Diva attributes

It’s hard to say anything negative about the show. I mean, it’s not for kids, there’s language and body jokes and girls in skimpy outfits, and guys in skimpy outfits and blah, blah, blah. But that’s all just part of the fun! Often it seemed the actors were enjoying themselves so much that some of the non-original Python humour seemed improvised.

GrrrrrrrIdle and Du Prez, who collaborated on the songs for both Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life have created some sort of masterpiece (not a compliment, mind you, just an observation). They’ve ripped off themselves in the best and most entertaining way possible. It’s shameless, really, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Spamalot can be seen at the Canon Theatre until September 2. Tickets are far too expensive. llewopemearg

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