New York City Theater
If it looks like a musical comedy, jokes like a musical comedy, and sings like a musical comedy – what is it? Well, "Monty Python’s Spamalot" for one, a revue that doesn’t care what you call it, as long as it entertains.
And, undeniably, entertain it does, unleashing an amusing cornucopia of silly walks and sillier jokes "lovingly ripped off from the motion picture 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.'" With book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by Idle and John Du Prez, the evening rolls fans in the aisles as they gleefully react to (and anticipate) every sight gag, pseudo-historical explanation, and absurd situation.
Since some of the Pythons' satire gets lost on the big stage, the show’s best and more original bits are the potshots at Lloyd Webber and Sondheim, "Dreamgirls" and "The Boy From Oz." Stopping the show is "You Won’t Succeed on Broadway" ("In any great adventure / That you don’t want to lose / You won’t succeed on Broadway / If you haven’t any Jews.") Gays are not forgotten, getting theirs in an outrageous scene between Prince Herbert and Sir Lancelot.
The cast of zanies features a lovably goofy David Hyde Pierce, a memorably wild Hank Azaria, and a witty Tim Curry as King Arthur. Sara Ramirez is a ditsy Lady of the Lake, while Steve Rosen is a hoot as Dennis's Mother, and Christopher Sieber drolly sends up narcissistic leading men. But the maddest of the mad are Michael McGrath as Arthur's coconut-banging Patsy and Christian Borle as both the effeminate Prince Herbert and the "not dead yet" plague victim.
With joyous direction by Mike Nichols, risible choreography by Casey Nicholaw, smashing sets and costumes by Tim Hatley, and deliciously garish lighting by Hugh Vanstone, "Spamalot" aspires to be artful, not art. And so it is.
-- David A. Rosenberg
March 28, 2005