Tuesday, April 5, 2011

theatre review, MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT, National Tour at NJPAC April 3, 2011

Monty Python and The Holy Grail was a hit movie in 1975 that comically told of King Arthur's search for the Holy Grail.  The zany Monty Python comedy team featuring Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman made many other films and had a hit tv series from the UK as well.

Almost 30 years after the Holy Grail film premiered, Idle created a musical version of the movie called Spamalot, a direct reference to the musical Camalot which was also set in the same period as the Grail film and about King Arthur, and was also part of a line in the Grail movie (that is also present in the show - basically how they like to eat "Spam a lot.")  The subtitle of the musical states "lovingly ripped off from the movie."  The show went on to win the 2005 Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Musical and ran on Broadway for just under four years, playing 1,574 performances.

The plot of the show is fairly basic, King Arthur forms the Knights of the Round Table and with his knights along for the ride, searches for the Holy Grail.  Almost all of the wild characters and lines from the film remain in the musical but the show also includes new scenes and over the top production numbers as well.  Some of the musical numbers very humorously spoof long running hit shows like Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.

The non equity tour that played the NJPAC last week uses the same sets and costumes from the recent equity tour that ran for three years.  This current tour started this past September and is set to run into 2012.  The direction and choreography are also recreations of the original Broadway production which was  directed by Mike Nichols and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.

The cast of this tour is definitely game for what they have before them, with lots of them playing multiple parts.  Steve McCoy's King Arthur is somewhat different from the one I saw in the original broadway cast where Tim Curry played that part.  He isn't quite as "royal" and stoic as Curry played it.  He does have a great relationship with his fellow cast members though his singing isn't quite up to what Curry could manage.  Caroline Bowman as the Lady in the Lake, the only female in the cast who has an actual character,  can't quite match what Sara Ramirez (now on tv's Grey's Anatomy) was able to capture in the original company.  Ramirez did win the Tony for her performance after all, but Bowman gives it her all and has a quite a lovely voice though she doesn't ring as much humor as Ramirez did out of the part.   The rest of the ensemble does very well with the comic parts and the zany songs and chews every possible piece of scenery they can find along the way.  Spoof and satire run rampant in this show and the cast knows how to play low brow and high brow humor just fine.  All in all, a pleasurable 2 plus hours in the theatre, though if you've never seen the show or film before I would recommend watching the movie before you go as it will make you appreciate how they've been able to theatricalize some of the funniest bits and characters from the film.

This tour continues into 2012, check out the website for tour dates near you.

Amazon link for the Original Broadway Cast cd - Monty Python's Spamalot (2005 Original Broadway Cast)

Amazon link for the dvd of the movie - Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Special Edition)

Video clip for the current tour:

Original Broadway Cast- Tony Performance  -

Chris Sieber and Sara Ramirez sing "The Song That Goes Like This" -

Sara Ramirez sings the "Diva's Lament" -

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog Gil, what it lacks in design, it more than makes up for in content.

    When you have a bit of time, check out my recent Python post - http://www.comicbookandmoviereviews.com/2011/08/monty-python-quotes-mike-graham-eric.html

    Also, if you want, would you consider a link exchange?