'Spamalot' every bit as entertaining as 'Holy Grail'

Dienstag, November 7, 2006 | by: Mat DeKinder

Nerds of the world, rejoice! For you, and anyone else for that matter, can see "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" live and in person in all its subversive, random and hilarious glory.

"Monty Python's Spamalot," now playing through Nov. 26 at the Fox Theatre, brings this classic British film to the stage as a musical with many of the classic bits intact in addition to many new Python-esq takes on musical theater.

"Spamalot" was a smash hit on Broadway and was written by Python member Eric Idle and directed by stage and screen veteran Mike Nichols ("The Graduate"). During its run, the musical collected several grail-like Tony Awards.

Now on its first national tour, "Spamalot" brings to town a fine cast, some grand singing and dancing and all the zaniness you can pack on to a single stage.

For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, probably because you were busy going on "dates" in high school, "Spamalot" very loosely tells the story of King Arthur (Michael Siberry) and his Knights of the Round Table: cowardly Sir Robin (David Turner), homicidal and closeted Sir Lancelot (Rick Holmes), handsome Sir Galahad (Bradley Dean) and the quasi-cunning Sir Bedevere (Christopher Gurr); and their quest for the Holy Grail.

Aided by faithful manservant Patsy (Jeff Dumas), who follows the knights around banging coconuts together as they gallop along on imaginary horses, this rather inept band of warriors encounter many detours along the way; including a castle full of insult-hurling Frenchmen, the terrible Knights Who Say "Ni," an enchanter named Tim and, of course, a killer bunny rabbit.

Yet "Spamalot" is much more than just a rehash of the movie, with many new scenes, scads of new songs and even new characters such as the booming-voiced Lady of the Lake (Pia Glenn), who aids the knights along their journey and gets to poke some fun at the over-singing, over-acting divas that populate musicals. She shines in self-referential songs like the sappily romantic "The Song That Goes Like This," or in "The Diva's Lament," where after a lengthy absence in Act II she sings "What ever happened to my part?"

The Monty Python comedy troupe always had a musical flair, yet with musical theater being the final frontier they had yet to conquer, "Spamalot" features many hilarious songs that more than live up to the Monty Python standard of excellence.

Numbers like "I Am Not Dead Yet," "Knights of the Round Table," which features a Las Vegas-style Camelot, and "You Won't Succeed on Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)," are just the tip of the iceberg of catchy, witty songs.

Even the classic tune "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," lovingly stolen from "Monty Python and the Life of Brian," finds a happy home in "Spamalot."

The cast does a fine job of finding their own space in their roles, which isn't easy considering they were played to perfection the first time around. Also, like in the film, many of the main cast members play secondary roles as well, which must make for some rapid and impressive costume changes backstage.

Some purists might be a little disappointed with some of the routines being left out or condensed, changes made to some of the characters and some occasional faltering in the impeccable Python timing, but if you're going to be that upset about the small stuff, maybe you should just stay home in your parent's basement and watch the DVD for the 2,326th time.

As for the rest of us, from line-quoting fanatics to the uninitiated who are wondering where a snake named Monty gets off writing musicals, "Spamalot" is a treat. Both fresh and familiar, it gives Broadway musicals a skewering they desperately needed.

Now run, don't walk, to the Fox to see "Spamalot" or you will be forced to cut down the mightiest tree in St. Louis wiiiiiiiiiiiith — a herring!

"Spamalot" is now playing at the Fox Theatre through Nov. 26. For tickets call MetroTix at (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.

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