‘Spamalot’ laden with silly, familiar, sometimes anachronistic fun

If SPAM (like Velveeta) is not to be served to discerning dinner guests, you can’t go wrong with a g
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SPAM: a trademark for a spiced pork product, luncheon meat and a luncheon-meat spread.

If SPAM (like Velveeta) is not to be served to discerning dinner guests, you can’t go wrong with a giant helping of “Spamalot,” the musical treatment of the Monty Python troupe’s 1975 movie classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Purists may lament the inclusion in Act II of too much anachronistic humor, and, truth be told, the change in tone vitiates some of the original Python sweetness. The increasingly self-conscious left turn into the Broadway show concept seems overdone. The Act I swipes at “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” are delicious, but they suffice, and when Andrew Lloyd Webber’s name is actually mentioned later on, the slyness evaporates.

And slyness is what’s so marvelous about Python. You enter their wacky world to be entertained by wit, errors in logic, wordplay, reinterpretations of history and a tweaking of everything pompous.

Oh, and downright silliness.

Familiar routines from the movie are intact, of course: “Bring out your dead,” “the Knights who say Ni,” “the French Taunters” and the “Killer Rabbit” drew knowing ahhs from Tuesday night’s packed house.

Some of the anachronisms are delightful, such as the brief “The Lady of the Lake and the Laker Girls” scene, and Eric Idle and his collaborator (John Du Prez, music) wisely break the fourth wall a number of times as characters talk to the orchestra and even get a member of the audience up on stage. You wouldn’t want simply to reprise the movie: there’s been too much stuff worth lampooning in the past 30 years to ignore.

This cast is dynamite, and they’re working on a set with all the bells and whistles of, well, Broadway. The costumes are colorful and, in a few cases, magical.

Casey Nicholaw’s choreography (he helmed the brilliant “The Drowsy Chaperone,” by the way) is executed with aplomb. I loved the “I Am Not Dead Yet” and “Knights of the Round Table” numbers in particular, but this crew can move no matter what the dance style.

Five musicians in the pit under Ben Whitely’s direction play with panache: good miking balances the voices and the instruments.

As for the performers, Esther Stilwell as the Lady of the Lake and Ben Davis as Sir Galahad score on “The Song That Goes Like This,” and Stilwell is first-rate in “The Diva’s Lament.”

Patrick Heusinger is a hilarious French Taunter and a charming Sir Lancelot.

You won’t be able to take your eyes off Christopher Sutton in multiple roles, including Not Dead Fred/Minstrel/Prince Herbert; he’s a physical clown with superb comic timing.

And Michael Siberry as King Arthur and Jeff Dumas as his assistant, Patsy, are especially amusing in “I’m All Alone.”

The show is in town through Sunday. Monty Python devotees have already bought their tickets, I’m sure, but even if you don’t know the troupe, you’ll get big laughs for your bucks.

Categories: Life and Arts

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