Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Spamalot (Playhouse Square Center)

Funny, funny, funny SPAMALOT at State and oh, it's funny.

Anyone who can sit through ‘MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT,’ now on stage at the State Theatre, and not hysterically laugh their way through most of the show’s skit-like segments, should try out for the part of the Muppet’s Oscar the Grouch.

The show, which self-proclaims it is “a new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture ‘MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL’,” is outlandishly, hilariously, creatively, well-conceived and performed.

As a song in the show says, “this is a very expensive forest.” The entire production is an expensive and expansive undertaking. Nothing has been spared in bringing this touring production of the still-running Broadway show to town. The sets, the costumes, the special effects are over-the-top. If you are sitting in the first dozen rows, you’ll wind up being showered with shiny circles of plastic, one member of the audience will be dragged on stage to get a special award, horses gallop (well, the horses aren’t actually there, but it matters little), clouds ascend and descend, a Las Vegas show room appears complete with a row of high kicking scantily clad dancers, castles come and go, and even God appears (well, at one point his legs and at another point his hand).

Now, be aware that not everything is in good taste...there are lots of sexual innuendos, lots of passing gas jokes, almost every ethnic and religious group is skewered. The skit which insists you can’t do a Broadway show without lots of Jews, is nothing short of uproarious and the ballet scene between a priest and a nun is offensively delightful.

So, what’s it all about? With book by Eric Idle, and music and lyrics by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, the 2005 Tony Award for Best Musical centers on King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and their search for the mythical (or mystical) Holy Grail, which could be a vessel, a bowl or an idea. Matters not, this is not a religious play, it is an irreverent romp.

For those who have seen the film, the musical differs in many ways, so those who haven’t seen the flick need not worry. More than anything else, the musical parodies the Broadway theatre (skewing everything from ‘FIDDLER ON THE ROOF’ to ‘FUNNY GIRL’ to ‘RENT.’

Under the direction of Mike Nichols, there is highlight after highlight. “I Am Not Dead Yet” is nothing short of side-splitting as is “Knight of the Round Table.” “Find Your Grail,” and “Come With Me” are belted by the wondrous Pia Glenn (Lady of the Lake). “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” complete with an umbrellas-twirling kick line, is pure cotton candy. (Be prepared to do a sing-along to this at the end of the show.) The three song unit, “Where Are You?,” “Here Are You” and “Lancelot” is a gender bending scream.

Only “Run Away,” a French Castle conflict between the British and the French grates a little, but with the negative relationship between the Tea-swiggers and the Frogs it may just not be something an American can appreciate.

The touring cast is terrific. Between all the cross-dressing and double casting, you’ll find it hard to keep track of who’s who, but it matters little, for there isn’t a weak cast member. Standouts are Pia Glenn who has a voice so fine and loud it can, and does, shatter a chandelier. Jeff Dumas is pure joy as the put-upon Patsy. Michael Siberry is a perfect foil as King Arthur. David Tuner shines as the less-than-brave Sir Robin. Rick Homes (Sir Lancelot) and Tom Deckman (Prince Herbert) play their gay-discovers-gay scenes with charming abandonment.

Capsule judgment: From its delightful overture through its over-the-top ending, ‘MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL’ is just plain fun. If you don’t have a sense of humor, are easily offended, or are a red state fanatic, this isn’t going to be for you, but for the rest of us, it’s a romp. Oh, you might consider wearing Depends as your ability to control your bladder may be compromised by your non-stop laughing.