Sunday, 2 December 2007

Monty Python's Spamalot, Dec 2, 2007

 Monty Python’s Spamalot
Book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by Eric Idle & John Du Prez
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Dec 2, 2007 until Feb 2008

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Spamalot is achingly funny. The first half is so gut-wrenchingly hilarious it makes your face hurt.

Of course, if you were a Monty Python tragic in your youth (me too) you will be daggily delighted to revisit the mad gags from Monty Python and the Holy Grail from which Spamalot was “lovingly ripped off” by Eric Idle.

We even forgive the second half for rambling around like a lunatic, trying to find its narrative. The show reprises The Knights of Ni (“Bring us a shrubbery”), the taunting Frenchmen (“I fart in your general direction”) and Not Dead Fred (“I’m feeling much better”). But it also blows a raspberry at big music theatre - particularly Phantom – and mocks its earnest predictability.

Bille Brown may not be much of a singer but his demented and grinning King Arthur, the epitome of upper-class twit, is delirious with his divine right to rule and oblivious to the hilarity around him. As in the movie, Arthur gallops horseless across 10th century Britain to the clop of coconut shells played by his mud-spattered servant, Patsy (Derek Metzger).

Idle and John Du Prez’s songs are inspired, Mike Nichols direction is inventive, the orchestra is tight, Tim Hatley’s design is vivid and Casey Nicholaw’s choreography is just plain silly. The show is narrated by a smug Historian (Mark Conaghan) and, after a false start in Finland with the Fisch Schlapping Song, Arthur embarks on his hero’s journey seeking Holy Grail. But first he recruits Knights for his Round Table.

The ensemble is impressive. Jason Langley is impish as the cowardly Brave Sir Robin who soils his pants at any hint of danger. Ben Lewis is a riot as Dennis, the revolutionary Communist villager who scrubs up to become the dashing Sir Galahad, golden-haired Brad Pitt of the Britons. David Whitney, after a Pythonesque drag act as Dennis’s Mother, is the portly Sir Bevedere and Stephen Hall is absurdly butch as Homicidally Brave - and latently homosexual - Sir Lancelot.

Conaghan revels in the girlish damsel in distress, Prince Herbert, while Metzger’s exceptional musical comedy technique makes Patsy a highlight. The vivacious and talented Lucinda Shaw, as the Lady in the Lake, grabs the role with both hands. With Lewis, she sings The Song That Goes Like This and returns with The Diva’s Lament, a comical pot shot at big-voiced musical stars. Oh - and John Cleese is God.

Spamalot is a really bonkers, laugh-out-loud romp.

By Kate Herbert

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