Footwork Impecc-able

Posted by len on October 19th, 2006

Last night we drank deeply of the goblet of Broadway and experienced Spamalot, the fitting swan song (and swan dancing) of our departure from the U.S. The show suffers a single fatal flaw: it’s musical theatre. Here’s a remedy: take the production, transplant it into something other than musical theatre, and then…Oh wait, then you’d have a movie called Monty Python and the Holy Grail that was made about 30 years ago. Sue and I are pretty skeptical of musical theatre (could you tell?) and thankfully Spamalot ranks among the best we’ve ever seen. We were happily entertained for most of the quickly paced two acts.
Among the few snags was a recreation of the famous stay-here-and-make-sure-he-doesn’t-leave-guard-scene. Following the movie script pretty much verbatim, the scene felt just too long for the funny it had to offer. The cast was good, so much so that we didn’t bemoan the absence of the original Python members too acutely (with the exception of the Cleese-as-French-taunter; the performance just couldn’t compare). Only two songs from the movie made their way into the musical: Camelot and Brave Sir Robin, the latter of which was a high-point especially given the clarity of the vocals compared to the more backgrounded version in the movie. The song ended on “..penis is split” as the bard imagines all the horrendous tortures Robin would bravely endure. You can’t not like that! In the first act the musical follows the movie plot fairly closely. For the second act all bets are off with the Lady in the Lake playing a significant, and funny, diva role and other bizarre and mostly funny meanderings.
Like a lot of musicals seem to do these days Spamalot gets a little too entrenched in a self-reflexive oh-look-we’re-on-broadway kind of thing towards the end. It’s hard to begrudge the writer Eric Idle too much in that regard, however. Remembering the ending of the seminal film, police cars disrupt the shenanigans in a twist of absurd anti-resolution. Most people aren’t expecting traditional dramatic arcs from a production named Spamalot but it is Broadway and Broadway shows can bend only so many rules.

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