Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Spamalot--the bright side of life

During a business trip to Las Vegas last week I managed to catch a showing of Spamalot. It was hilarious and worth every penny.

If you haven't seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and I can't imagine anyone reading this who hasn't), then you won't have nearly as much fun watching Spamalot as someone like me, who has the film nearly memorized. Half the good feeling I got from watching Spamalot was seeing all the classic skits replayed on stage, and enjoying the cheers in the audience when the black knight strode onto the stage, for example, or when Arthur and co. rolled out the wooden badger. Many in the audience recited the lines right along.

Spamalot does differ from Holy Grail in several ways. There's far more musical numbers--no surprise given that it's a musical--and there's also greatly expanded roles by a couple minor characters, including the Lady of the Lake and Herbert, the gay singing prince. Spamalot is also a send-up of Hollywood musicals in general, with a particularly funny lancing of Hollywood love songs ("The Song that Goes Like This").

But the audience is also treated to most of the best parts from the movie, including the French knights, the black knight, the "bring out your dead" scene, Launcelot slaying half the wedding party, Tim the Enchanter, the peasant who argues with Arthur's right to kingship ("Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony"), and of course the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. A couple omitted items I missed included the Knights of Nee/shrubbery scene (the Knights of Nee were in Spamalot, but there was no shrubbery, alas), and the two guards/"make sure he doesn't leave" scene was also left out. Ah well.

I also enjoyed the scenery and stage props--they rolled out a large-sized castle on stage for the scene with the French knights, and actually fired a large stuffed cow over the wall, for example. There was also a very funny effect when the rabbit beheads Bors--his head rolls around on stage and red streamers spill out of the neck. Playing the role of King Arthur was John O'Hurley of Seinfield fame (J. Peterman), and he was excellent.

If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend Spamalot.


Sham aka Dave said...

Nice post. I got a pair of tickets this past Christmas to see Spamalot at National Theater in DC. It was one of the few things on my wish list that I actually received. OK, the only thing...but I digress.

I loved the show as well. I guess there are different versions, though, because the Knights AND the shrubbery as well as the infamous Two Guards were in the production I saw. As a matter of fact, in the scene in which Arthur returns with the misappropriated shrub, the audience was actually treated to a bit of ad-lib on the part of the leader of the Knights of Ni, as instead of the usual "Ecky-Ecky Fatang..." bit, he broke out and sang "Hail to the Redskins" (the Skins were playing in the playoffs later that day).

The Two Guards scene is probably my favorite bit from the movie...but there as so many good ones. I particularly enjoyed the way they really went a bit wild with the antics of the Frenchmen. Hilarious.

Anyway, after dragging my Wife with me (she's never been a Python fan) she ended up seeing it again on Broadway with her Sister! I'm still jealous. I'm looking forward to seeing it again soon.


Brian Murphy said...

Hi Sham (aka Dave), there must be different versions, because even though I was dead-tired from traveling all day from the east coast, I would remember the famous shrubbery scene and the two guards.

Did your show have the Finnish dancers who do an elaborate "fish slapping" performance at the beginning after thinking that the narrator said "Finland" instead of "England?" Perhaps that bit was new to the version I saw.

Rick said...

I saw it in Boston. (time is a blurr, I think it was last year) I would have loved to see Tim Curry in New York but time, space and budget prevented such.

I won't try to remember every detail (yes there were fish slappers). I did enjoy it very much and do recommend it. However, it did give me a greater appreciation for the original Python gang. (which is difficult to believe because they already had godhood status with me). I am not talking about the writing but the actual acting. I noticed the comedic phrasing and timing of the players was less effective than the original. It did not make the outing less fun, but certainly left a greater appreciation for the small bits of pauses, inflextions and odd facial expressions that made the hilarious even funnier.

I have my herring and I'm off to find the largest tree in the forest.

Brian Murphy said...

Hey Rick, you're right about that. The original Python cast are comic geniuses. I take nothing away from the cast of Spamalot, but you can't beat the original. Although a talent like Tim Curry I'm sure could pull it off, and then some. He's pretty amazing.

Sham aka Dave said...

Yes, it started off with the ushers handing out the faux bills that looked like, possibly, you were at the wrong show! aka The Finnish Fish Slap bit. Pure Eric Idle silliness.

It does make me wonder, though, what bits did you get treated to that I missed?

I'll have to see it again. I'd ask my Wife, but she's not up on her Python. Her Broadway production did include one of my all time favorites...Clay Aiken!

I'm sure you could guess, as did I, which role he played in the Broadway version.

If you don't own it, the special edition of Holy Grail on DVD has a great remembrance piece with (IIRC) Palin and Jones touring the countryside where the film was shot. It's a great feature.

I could write an entire blog on Monty Python...I enjoy it that much. BTW you can score the entire Flying Circus DVD collection for a song these days. I think my Wife got quite a bargain on it when she gifted it to me. Shop around a bit.