Monty Python's Spamalot opened to a packed house this week as part of the Broadway at the Bass Series and it didn't take long to see why the 2005 Tony winner for Best Musical was such a draw. The show starts funny and the laughs never cease. It is quickly obvious this is the musical the Xanadu could have been, but wasn't,
Spamalot is a musical “lovingly ripped off from” the 1975 movie Monty Python and the The Holy Grail. The original Broadway production was nominated for fourteen Tony's and was seen by nearly two million people on the Great White Way.
Spamalot begins with a recording of Python alum John Cleese telling audience members that they should feel free to let their cell phones ring willy nilly during the performance, then he corrects himself, that can't happen.
The show starts irreverent and stays that way. After an initial miscommunication between narrator and actors and a resetting of the stage the play begins again with monks crossing the stage chanting prayers while hitting themselves in the face with large bibles. You can take from that where this play is willing to go, and it does with fantastic results.
Spamalot is the story of King Arthur and his journey to assemble Knights for his very round table and with them find the Holy Grail. The highlights of the first act include “He Is Not Dead Yet” a brilliantly hysterical number in which Lancelot is trying to sell “Not Dead Fred” to Sir Robin, a collector of corpses. Lancelot and Robin end up joining King Arthur and their journey leads them to a meeting with a peasant and his mother, who will not believe he is king.
Arthur calls on the “Lady of the Lake” and her Laker Girls to back up his claims. This I am sure I don't have to explain, the Laker girls are exactly what you think they are and the laughs continue. The Lady of the Lake is played to perfection by Brittany Woodrow. I was quite surprised to see no Broadway credit under her belt, but with a voice like this Broadway is in her future. She is amazing.
Act Two continues in a “dark and very expensive forest”. Arthur has a hilarious encounter with the Black Knight, who after being rendered a quadriplegic in a sword fight with Arthur, insists his injuries are mere flesh wounds. Also in this forest Arthur encounters the “Knights who say Ni” and they insist he put on a broadway musical if he is to find the Holy Grail. This leads to the funniest number of the production. Arthur is informed you need Jews to put on a Broadway musical, the number “You Won't Succeed on Broadway”, while not the most famous tune from this show, it is the most fun.
It is about this time that the Lady of the Lake returns with the number “What Happened to My Part?” Seems she is not happy with her lack of stage time, and she takes over the stage to tell us about it. While the Knights go off in search of Jews Lancelot receives a letter from who he assumes is a damsel in distress, what he finds though is Herbert, a nellie boy who's homophobic, music hating father is forcing him into an arranged marriage. Lancelot saves the boy, comes out and the show culminates with the discovery of the Holy Grail, and a double wedding, King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake, and Lancelot and Herbert.
Spamalot is an over the top farce and there are some one liners here that you will be laughing about long after you leave the theater. But do not fear if you are a Broadway purist. All the elements of a great Broadway show are here. There are big sets, fun costumes, big dance numbers and even a really good old fashioned tap dancing number.
Spamalot features a cast of comically gifted actors but the standouts here are James David Larson who plays the two funniest characters in the play, Not Dead Fred, who is brilliant when doing “He Is Not Dead Yet” and Sir Herbert the little gay boy and Brittany Woodrow who's over the top performance is only topped by her own voice. All I can say is wow!
I typically am not a big fan of movies made into theater, translating from stage to screen is a tough transition to make, and results are mixed...Spamalot is an exception. It is so funny that I laughed until it hurt. I saw this last year in Dallas, and casting changes has taken the show to a new, higher level. This is the most fun I have had in the theater in a long time!
Spamalot plays Bass Hall through Sunday . Tickets are $22-82. and available at http://www.basshall.com Upcoming shows at Bass Hall include Dixie's Tupperware Party, Mary Poppins, Blue Man Group and An Evening with Carol Burnett-where the audience asks the questions.
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