Pros:Great singing, great acting, cartoons, sing-a-long at the end
Cons:Not for kids below teenage years
The Bottom Line: A fun musical that Monty Python fans will really enjoy.
I saw the touring version of Spamalot in Boston in March 2006. I had wanted to see it in New York for months but found it virtually impossible to get tickets since it had won the Tony in 2005 for best new musical.
Recommend this product?
Well, they make no secret of the fact that Spamalot is "lovingly" ripped off from the Monty Python movie The Holy Grail. If you have seen the movie, you will get to see many of the scenes, some word for word, in the musical. The scenes are not in exact order that they appear in the movie but the general plot is roughly the same. The best thing about the musical is that they added new material, or sometimes updated material from the movie to a more modern age.
For those not familiar with the movie, I will give you a very quick overview. The musical is based on the story of King Arthur. King Arthur must gather knights and seek the holy grail. Really, that's it. The plot is rather thin but I can guarantee that the knights encounter lots of silliness along their journey. These adventures include running into the "French People," being sent on a mission to find a shubbery and a sidetrip to Camelot which closely resembles Las Vegas.
Also, to give fair warning to parents, I would give this musical a "R" rating. There is lots of gay humor and even a gay wedding. There is a song about jews that is quite funny but not everyone will love the ethnic humor. There are quite a few swears and girls wearing not much at all. Considering the performance I saw was in Boston, and Massachusetts is the only state so far to allow gay marriage, the gay humor went over fine. However, I would be surprised to see it as well-received in other places.
I think I set the stage for my own disappointment because I had really wanted to see Tim Curry in the original New York Broadway show but could never get tickets. I am always a little wary of touring casts and I prepared myself for some average acting. However, I have to say that the touring cast in this production was one of the best I have ever seen. Across the board, each actor put on a fine, enthusiastic performance and the singing was really top-notch. Based on the acting alone, this was one of the best performances I have ever seen.
I find that plays really vary in the staging. Some have glamorous backdrops and some have all kinds of elaborate moving sets. I would put Spamalot right up the middle as far as staging goes. The backdrops were just average and filled in the space without drawing attention to themselves. The props and movable stage scenery was about average. It was mostly either castle scenes or forest scenes. The props moved on and off stage with little fanfare.
What makes Spamalot different was the cartoon animation within the sets. At one point, our hero is lost in a "very expensive forest." As soon as he spoke that line, animated dollar signs appeared on the trees. An even more clever scene involved the knights running away from the french people. The backdrop showed a cartoon version of the french people using a catapult to launch cows, sheep and baguettes at our heros. I really likes how they integrated the cartoon backdrops into the show. It was unique and funny although it didn't require jawdropping special effects that I have seen in other shows.
In this show, the costumes suit the show and the actors but they don't really stand out on their own. Some of the costumes are lifted directly from the movie. Others included some fancy dresses for the lady of the lake and there were a few numbers with very skimpy costumes for the girls. All in all, the costumes were about what I would expect and they suited the play.
We saw the performance with live music from an orchestra pit. The music was great and the accoustics in Boston's Colonial Theater were great.
The songs were very catchy and well-performed. A couple of the songs were lifted from the movie but most were original to the show. One song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is from another Monty Python movie, "The Life of Brian" but it somehow worked its way into this show. I actually thing the song is cute and catchy so I was glad they included it. I would definitely consider buying the CD.
I really liked Spamalot. I thought it was funny and the cartoon animation embedded into the show was clever and added a unique element. If you have seen the movie, you will recognize many of the scenes and definitely the style of humor. However, I thought they added enough other material to make the show enjoyable for all. I would definitely recommend this show.
OTHER BROADWAY PLAYS I HAVE REVIEWED:
Gypsy is Broadway at its best.
Rent is an unusual Broadway rock musical legend.
Wicked is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz.
Chicago is a classic.
Sweet Charity has a 60s vibe.
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