Wednesday, April 01, 2009
‘SPAMALOT’ gets a 10 at The Palace
On the way out of the Palace Theatre, where we had just seen ‘SPAMALOT,’ my 13 year-old grandson, who has picked up the nickname, “the kid reviewer,” was smiling and animatedly stated, “That was a perfect 10. It’s the best show. Well, at least the best show I’ve seen so far!”
He had been laughing hysterically as Richard Chamberlain and the dynamic cast of ‘MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT,’ the musical ripped off from the motion picture ‘MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL,’ had delighted a near sold-out audience. An audience, many of whom were back for more of the same, having seen the first touring production when it was here several years ago.
Monty Python (sometimes known as The Pythons), is a group of six comedians who created “Monty Python's Flying Circus,” a British television comedy sketch show that first aired in 1969. The Python phenomenon, impertinent mockery of anything and everything, spawned stage shows, films, albums, books and a stage musical.
The musical is a highly irreverent parody of the Arthurian Legend, which includes parodies of the Broadway theatre. The book and lyrics were written by Eric Idle, a member of the Monty Python team, who collaborated with John Du Prez on the music. The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, won three Tony Awards.
At the very start of the show you quickly learn what you are in for. Before the curtain rises, a recording tells the audience to "let your cell phones and pagers ring willy-nilly, but you should be aware that there are heavily armed knights on stage that may drag you on stage and impale you." Then the first scene starts which we’ve been told by the narrator, is going to be a tale of mediaeval England. What’s on stage? A village with gaily dressed Finns singing and dancing to the "Fisch Schlapping Song." The narrator returns, irritated, and tells the frolickers that he was talking about England, not Finland and to get off stage. Later we see the hand and feet of God, experience a flying figure on a rocket-propelled broom, a man killing rabbit, and a male princess who falls in love with one of Arthur’s brave knights. And, so the idiocy unravels.
Richard Chamberlain, has been seen in such TV series as “Shogun,” “The Thornbirds,” and “Wallenberg,” and is known to many as the original Dr. Kildare. He has a nice singing voice, still is handsome, and populates the role of King Arthur with the right bewildered and pompous air. The cast is universally delightful and Merle Dandridge, she of beautiful face, gorgeous body and outstanding vocal abilities, makes for an entrancing Lady of the Lake. Yes, she is a character in a different tale, but who cares.
The score is delightful, highlighted by the hysterical, “I Am Not Dead Yet,” “The Song That Goes Like This,” “Find Your Grail,” “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway, “ and “His Name is Lancelot.”
The setting was full-blast Broadway level and the entire production was well staged, costumed and had all the necessary special effects.
I was wondering how the “younguns” would react to the sometimes sophisticated words and ideas. I need not have worried. As Alex and his friend Alex, who was also in attendance, stomped their way through the lobby and out onto Euclid Avenue, singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” repeating many lines, and doing some of the slapstick movements, I was assured that, in spite of his mother’s warning that he “wouldn’t get most of it,” Alex had just seen what he conceived to be a perfect theatre “10!”
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The touring production of ‘SPAMALOT’ is a total joy. If you’ve never seen this clever musical, you should. If you have, you should make a return visit, as it won’t get much better than experiencing Richard Chamberlain and this great professional company in a full-fledged staging!