Review by Jacquelin Hipes
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Eric Idle’s Broadway spin-off Spamalot, the recipient of three Tony Awards including Best Musical, is no substitute for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But, on a Thursday night in Dallas, no one in the audience at the Majestic Theater seemed to care much. Laughter veered into uproarious territory, even for well-worn jokes from the original film, applause was frequent and enthusiastic, and you could occasionally hear the polite quote-along at mentions of hamsters, Ni!, and a certain sorcerer named Tim. It didn’t matter that some of the filler moments invented for the musical were hit-or-miss – the cast was having such a good time belting out songs old and new, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the fun of it all.
Spamalot hits most of the same story beats as its inspiration, following King Arthur on his quest to recruit knights to his (very, very) Round Table and recover the Holy Grail. The Lady of the Lake is the most notable addition to Python’s irreverent adaptation; her character lends extra panache, sparkle, and a bit of a love story to the otherwise male-dominated proceedings. Some Python skits get thrown into the mix as well, with references to lumberjacks, fish, and the bright side of life thrown in for good measure. Other additions don’t land as well, particularly those that trot out scantily-clad chorus girls for no reason beyond the obvious.
The ensemble’s talent seems almost excessive when deployed in service of such silly fare. Arthur, the Lady of the Lake, and Robin all have exceptional performers behind them in this particular touring group, supplementing excellent voices with a sly enthusiasm for the material. When everyone makes it onto stage at the same time the resulting chorus is surprisingly powerful, providing a few sincere “wow” musical moments.
For the rest of its briskly paced two hours, Spamalot otherwise goes to some lengths to poke fun at the traditional Broadway show. The Lady of the Lake and Galahad share a ballad noncommittally entitled “The Song That Goes Like This” and later, after an extended absence, she demands to know the fate of her part in “The Diva’s Lament”. Python’s irreverent humor is on full display with numbers like “You Won’t Succeed in Broadway”, whose central thesis lost a few politically-correct audience members, but nonetheless fits in well with the humor first on display in Flying Circus.
Spamalot is no Hamilton…but no one familiar with Idle and his cohorts would ever expect such a thing. It’s content with being a jolly good time, an increasingly rare and ever-special sentiment.