If you’re a Monty Python fan, you already know that you enjoy a bit of silliness. Monty Python’s Spamalot – basically the classic 1974 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail set to music – has counted on this to fill theaters since it opened on Broadway. The show, created by Python great Eric Idle, won the best musical Tony in 2005 and is now enjoying a successful national tour. I saw it last night at Stephens Auditorium in Ames, and the theater was packed all the way up to the third balcony.
The musical story of King Arthur and his hodge-podge Knights of the Round Table is at its best when it sticks to the original film plot. Fans of the Holy Grail will love the “bring out your dead” scene and its accompanying “I’m Not Dead Yet” number, the clickety-clacking of coconut hoofbeats, the Knights who Say “Ni,” the Black Night, the taunting Frenchman, the killer rabbit, and all the rest.
Not as successful are all the new characters, especially the Lady of the Lake, a diva who shows up way too much and pretty much drags down the plot whenever she’s on stage. There are lots of dancing girls and colorful numbers that don’t seem to belong in this show, and it makes me wonder if Spamalot wouldn’t have been a lot better if it had been staged as a male-only cast like its founding group of Pythons. In fact, one of the funniest scenes takes place as Arthur is starting to gather his Knights and he meets Dennis (Sir Galahad) and his mother, hilariously played by Thomas DeMarcus. Nobody does female impersonation like the Monty Python troupe.
I did enjoy a couple of “extraneous” numbers, most especially “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” but also the hilarious “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway,” both in the second act.
The current national touring company is excellent. I saw this show a few years ago in Chicago, and I think the production in Ames was actually better. The cast seems to be having a great time, and the audience loved them.
Now I want to sit back and watch the movie.