Quick Review of Monty Python’s Spamalot on Broadway, NYC
Spam, spam, spam, bacon & spamalot – internet emails meet On Broadway ?
While in New York, my wife and I had a 4th July evening to ourselves (celebrating our independence) and decided to hit Broadway. Our choice: Spamalot at the Shubert Theatre, NYC. It was a gamble. On the one hand, I am a die hard Monty Python fan (and my kids are fast joining the band) ; on the other hand, such British humour was likely to be difficult for Yendi, my French wife (although her English is fully fluent).
Directed by Mike Nichols and based on a book by original MP star Eric Idle, Spamalot features an entirely new score (by John Du Prez and Eric Idle). Running since March 2005, it has won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004–2005 season.
The irony of the play was that it was a hit with my wife and less so for me. The story is fun and certainly is loyal to spirit of the mythical 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. The tagline says that Spamalot is “(lovingly) ripped off from the motion picture.” However, Spamalot is also a substantially watered down version of Monty Python humour, replete with wildly « easy » moments. Among the more « interesting » moments, however, was the song entitled, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” that features the line « You just won’t succeed on Broadway, If you don’t have any Jews! » How true — especially in New York.
Wikipedia comments on the views of the original MP team with a wide array of opinions. Cleese, who gave his voice to God in Spamalot, apparently was favourable. However, Terry Jones who co-directed film with Gilliam, said in an interview with Entertainment News, “Spamalot is utterly pointless. It’s full of air… Regurgitating Python is not high on my list of priorities.” Evidently, there was also a feeling of bitterness regarding the unshared commercial success (to Eric Idle’s benefit).
Plabill spoof – a highlight
Meanwhile, the Spamalot Playbill features a surprising hoax section, where all the normal information is transliterated into a Finnish version of the musical (“Finns Ain’t What They Used To Be”). Particularly impressed by the EVP, Vlad the Impaler Wankel. This part of the Playbill was apparently written by Michael Palin (who gave the musical a less-than-positive review himself). The Finnish section also advises “Patrons are asked not to smoke or speak Swedish in the theatre. Please use cell phones whenever possible.”
Spamalot is currently also running in London, Las Vegas and Melbourne (where it is apparently flopping), with a Spanish version in the works. Clearly, it is doing well — bringing a “democratic version” of Monty Python to the masses. And, there is some kind of international competition — verified by the Guinness Book of World Records — on the world’s largest coconut orchestra. The new record was set when 5,567 people, led by the cast from the London production, along with the two Terrries (Jones and Gilliam), armed with coconuts performed “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” in Trafalgar Square. Will the folks down go nuts enough to break the latest record?
In an era of changing and updating the initial film, I missed the opportunity to link the spam skit to the internet spam.
Overall, I give Spamalot a notawholelot rating and a 2.5/5.0 star review. Anyone else have an opinion to share?
For a few reviews: try New York Times, Popwatch Blog (some good comments), and a fun blog called Dressing.