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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Spamalot

I saw a preview of Monty Python's Spamalot on Friday, and had a blast. I would recommend the show to any Python fan or to any Broadway fan, but let me preface my review by saying that I come from this first camp, not the second. I find many Broadway shows tiresome in general and trite at their worst, but Spamalot is neither of these things. It's a guaranteed good time and the production is excellent all around. The cast, including Tim Curry, David Hyde-Pierce, and Hank Azaria, were all in superb form, and the energy in the place was palpable.

Spamalot, for those who might not know, is based on the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The mix of old and new material is about 60/40 in favor of new stuff, and they riff on the source material pretty liberally. If you're looking for Holy Grail on stage, it's not exactly that, but the spirit of Python is throughout the script.

Bring out your dead, the killer rabbit, and the black knight are all there, along with discussions of swallows, Sir Lancelot crashing a wedding, Sir Robin running away, and the Knights Who Say Ni... but alas, no witch! The French taunting scene was my personal favorite, and watching Tim Curry run in place singing "Run Away" at the end of Act One left me grinning throughout the intermission.

One choice they made, however, really bugged me, and I have to talk about it. They appropriated Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, one of my personal favorite Python songs of all time. And the reason it has been my favorite is because of the way it is presented in The Life of Brian. For those of you who have not seen this very funny movie, it's worth seeing for this song alone because it's sung by a bunch of guys hanging on crosses. The overall effect is rather macabre. And then to see it put on a broadway stage, accompanied by knights dancing in the rain, it seemed to cheapen the whole effect of the original. Maybe I'm nit-picking, but it bothered me.

Another thing that bugged me was the Lady of the Lake. She has a fairly sizable part in the play, and while Sara Ramirez's performance was truly excellent, she started to overshadow the Python bits, and then you started to see that there are really two plays here: a Holy Grail revisited and a Broadway spoof, and the two sides of this tale do not always get along. Instead of something smooth, seamless and subtle, we end up with chunks of Python floating in a Broadway soup. It's good fun, like I said, but lacks some of the genius in the original.

Like I said, if you liked Holy Grail, then you'll like most of what you see here, and some of the new material is really very funny, but I think that overall, it could have been better realized.

BSR (Base Show Rating): 8/10
Applicable Modifiers:

  • -1 if you have seen Life of Brian (Always Look on the Bright Side of Life gets butchered)
  • -1 if you you don't like Broadway cheese (there's a lot here)
  • +1 if you like David Hyde-Pierece (he's excellent)

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.