“ Palace Theatre / Shaftsbury Avenue / London / „
My dad introduced me to the joys of Monty Python at a tender young age and I've been a fan ever since with Monty Python's Holy Grail and a Life of Brian taking pride of place in my DVD collection. I'd heard of Spamalot but had been a bit unsure of it. My family are a bit cheesy (a bit like the Scottish version of the Brady bunch) and we love musicals, so it wasn't the idea of a Monty Python musical that put me off. I did worry, however, that you can't really improve on Python and anything trying to represent it on stage would just be a pale imitation. This year, though, I was struggling for an idea of what to get for my dad's birthday present and reluctantly decided that perhaps Spamalot was the only idea I could come up with.
Spamalot is a musical based on Monty Python created by Eric Idle and with the music written by John Du Prez. Obviously, the original Monty Python crew do not feature (apart from Eric Idle in a video appearance as God). It was the winner of the Best Musical Tony Award in 2005.
We went to see it on tour at The King's Theatre, Glasgow and I thought the tickets were pretty pricey. It cost £35 for an ordinary ticket in the stalls (but not at the front of the stalls....fairly near the back). As I'm a student, I got my ticket for £14.50 and to be honest, I'm not sure I'd have bought the tickets if I'd had to pay full price for both of them as £70 for two tickets would be a bit too dear, I felt. I go to the theatre quite a lot and go to see allsorts from orchestras to operas to musicals and when I go to see opera, I pay £35 for front row stalls tickets and I think this is a reasonable amount to pay considering a full orchestra needs to be paid as well as a large and very skilled cast (not to mention the behind the scene folks and the set costs). Whereas, for Spamalot the cast is relatively small with only a few dancers and the musicians, also, are limited (you can see them at points) and I think there were only 3 or 4 musicians. To me, I don't think the value for money is high then for a £35 ticket for Spamalot as compared to the same price for an opera ticket.
I'm going to try and avoid giving spoilers here as much as possible. The first act was a bit of a disappointment, to be totally honest. The show started and was very garish and pantomime-esque and most of the jokes were lifted straight out of Holy Grail word for word. Don't get me wrong, the tagline for the advert for the show did state that it was "lovingly ripped off" but I thought this meant that the general plot-line of Holy Grail would be followed and some of the famous Monty Python songs such as We're Knights of the Round Table would appear but I thought there would be more attempt to mix it up a bit by using new jokes. After all, humour is found in the unexpected and the element of surprise was very much lacking. I felt a bit like I could have went home and put on a Holy Grail DVD instead of watching an expensive show.
I ate my ice cream feeling a bit down in the dumps. Had I wasted my hard-earned cash on a substandard show. Perhaps I had. The rest of the audience seemed to be lapping things up, though, roaring with laughter at the old, recycled jokes. I began to wonder if I was the only member of the audience who had actually seen Holy Grail (which may well have been the case since the average age of the audience looked to be about 16).
The second half, however, was a different kettle of fish. There was again a lot of material lifted straight out the movie but also a lot more original stuff that raised a chortle (from me included). I definately was more impressed as the second act got underway and I was singing along with Always Look on the Bright Side of Life at the end along with everyone else.
So is it worth it?
Monty Python was so much about the Monty Python crew that watching non-Monty Pythoners on stage does seem to be a bit sterile and I'm not sure it transfers totally well, particularly when they recycle old jokes that Monty Python did so well the first time round and they definately can't be improved. The new material is hilarious, however, when it does pop up and is totally in the old Monty Python spirit and doesn't suffer from a comparison with the original in the same way.
The price, as I say, is pretty high for a ticket at The King's, at least and I'm not sure that it is worth the ticket price. I am a student, though, and on a tight budget. I think if you've never seen Holy Grail before, you'll be rolling in the aisles the whole way through but if you have seen it (and seen it many times, like myself) you might be better saving your money and sitting in with the Holy Grail DVD again.
'Spamalot' is currently touring the country and I caught the show at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.
*** Tour ***
'Spamalot' ran at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, from the 31st of January to the 5th of February. The tour continues all over the UK until June '11, the next stop after Plymouth being Manchester's Palace Theatre. Dates and locations are available at the 'Spamalot on tour' website (www.spamalotontour.co.uk/tour).
On one evening of their run at Plymouth (Wednesday), the cast did a Q & A session for the audience after the show, so it would be worth checking if they intend to do that again at other venues, if that would appeal to you. One of my friends was there for the Plymouth Q & A, and said it was really interesting and funny.
*** Tickets ***
I bought the Other Half tickets for Christmas, online direct from the Theatre Royal's website. We had front row tickets and I paid £31.50 for each. The tickets arrived by post within a week of booking. The Theatre Royal has a selection of tickets and concessions, so as with any venue, how much you pay depends on where you're willing to sit and which day you want to go. Tickets ranged between £10 and £34.50.
*** Theatre Royal, Plymouth ***
The Theatre Royal is in the centre of Plymouth, with plenty of car-parking nearby. The closest multi-storey car-park is usually 'pay as you exit', but in the evenings you can pay your parking in advance to avoid the queues following a show. The bottom level is devoted to disabled parking, while the next level is parent & child parking.
The theatre has two performance areas, the main one and the Drum. It's a vibrant and lively theatre, which claims to be the largest and best attended regional producing theatre in the UK. We've seen several shows there before, from Shakespeare to panto to the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'.
When we got there, staff were selling 'Spamalot' merchandise in the lobby. These consisted of mugs, t-shirts, programmes and badges: the usual stuff. It wasn't too extortionately priced, in the £5 to £20 range. At the main bar, service was speedy and we ordered a wine and cider for then and also in advance for the intermission. These four drinks set us back £14.40.
We found our seats easily, since we were in the front row! The only downside of where we were was one of our seats was right where the row angled to fit round the stage: leg room at this corner was slightly reduced. It would have been fine except that the person sitting next to us was on the large side (with apologies) and it was hard not to touch legs - which was rather more intimate with a stranger than I wanted to be! But this slight awkwardness was forgotten once the show began. In front of us there was the low wall and steps around the orchestra pit. These were very tempting for us to put our bags and coats on, but ushers came along and told everyone to keep the area clear.
At intermission we found our pre-ordered drinks quickly, on a shelf running to one side of the main bar area. They had ushers selling small pots of ice-cream for £2.50 each around the theatre as well as at the bars.
*** The Show ***
'Spamalot' is a musical based on the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", which was a phenomenon at the time and has provided new generations with endless laughs and opportunities to quote from the film.
If you're unaware of the Pythons, first I'd be a bit gobsmacked, and then I'd recommend you watch the Holy Grail as it's perhaps the most accessible part of their comic legacy. The Python team were Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. They came to fame with the sketch show 'Monty Python's Flying Circus', an anarchic and innovative comedy series of the late '60s, early '70s. Eric Idle is the force behind the stage-show.
The show's name 'Spamalot' is a reference to King Arthur's court of Camelot and to the famous spam song in Monty Python. It is set in the imagined past of Arthurian legend, with King Arthur assembling his Knights of the Round Table and being given a quest for the Holy Grail. This storyline resembles that of the film from which it proclaims it has been "lovingly ripped off", although it does not follow it completely by any means.
The film was rather low-budget and the staging of this show reflects that. It looks good and has a modern twist and the costumes and scenery are all well-made and attractive, while still referring back to the look of the film.
Phil Jupitus took the role of King Arthur. He is probably best known for his appearances on tv panel shows like 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'. He is also a stand-up comedian and frontman for the Blockheads. While not quite fitting the image of Arthur to my mind, he did a sterling job and his comic timing, as you would expect, was impeccable. His dancing was minimal and wasn't exactly sprightly, but blended well into the ensemble.
A real gift to the show was Todd Carty as Patsy. Carty is a face most people might recognise from 'EastEnders' and 'The Bill', although for me I remember him fondly from his role as Tucker in 'Grange Hill' as a youngster and in the spin-off 'Tucker's Luck'. He made a great Patsy, put-upon and degraded, wielding his coconuts with aplomb.
The Lady of the Lake was Jodi Prenger, winner of 2008's 'I'd do Anything' tv talent show. She is a great performer and sang wonderfully. She was also very comical with her (deliberate) mugging & over-acting very suited to the Monty Python-style of the show.
The rest of the cast were spot-on too. The actor playing Lancelot in particular stood out.
We really enjoyed the production: it started well with the fish-slapping dance and it just kept us laughing throughout. The songs were fun and funny, although the ones that we hadn't heard before in various Python films or programmes were not particularly memorable. Nearly all the best bits of the movie are incorporated into the stage-show, from the Knights who say Ni to the mysterious enchanter, Tim.
*** Conclusion ***
Python fans will absolutely love this show.
For people who don't know Python, it is genuinely funny stuff so it should work for them. That said, they may feel a little out of the loop when the knowing audience around them burst into applause/laughter at the *start* of scenes!
It was a great night out and I'd recommend it thoroughly.
I went to see this last night as it is no touring the country and came to the Theatre Royal in Nottingham where it is showing this week for (I think), 4 days. I had never seen anything from Monty Python before but this was really funny and I will be looking out for a bargain copy of the shows/get addicted to youtube from now on.
The story is based on the Holy Grail story which I had never seen/heard of but basically it centres around King Arthur of Britian who is made king by a lady of the lake who gives him a sword and basically tells him that he is the king. He goes around recruiting knights for his round table. He finds a few unlikely lads and they go off gallavanting togther. Then The Lord tells them they need to find the holy grail (a chalice) and they set off to find it. They encounter loads of random things along the way and finally find it.
One of my favourite scenes is the banter between the french guards and King Arthur as it is so silly and funny, it had me in stiches! They lady of the lake was funny but it went on too long because she was "the hottie" of the show and she sang songs which laughed at general musicals, and then kept coming on and moaning about how she wasn't on the stage enough. This was the only bit I didn't like so much.
It is a really silly show but I laughed all the way through. Both of my friends had already seen it elsewhere previously but they still enjoyed it, and I think got more of the jokes and the hidden things than me.
I think there was about 13 on the cast and they were great, with some people playing mulltiple characters which really impresses me. I particularly liked the gay prince scenes and that actor because he was really funny. There were 3 girls on the cast and the rest were men although (Apparantly in true monty python style) some played women at various bits in the show.
Really it was just such a funny wierd random thing and I wonder what the people who wrote it were taking, but it was non-stop laughs and because of the theme it sort of brought the whole audience together to laugh and sing at the end along with the cast.
The cheapest tickets were £15 but we couldn't get any of these, so we paid £20 to sit on the balcony. The palace theatre is a really nice venue, built in 1977 but in a really old and grandeau style which felt very regal and sophisticated.
The merchandise didn't seem too pricey but I didn't buy any. The T-shirts were £15 I think and the programmes were £3 which seems very reasonable and fair to me, as sometimes they can really be a rip off!
Towards the end they got someone from the audience on stage and bless him he was brill, I thought basically the whole show is definitely worth a go-and-see if you can or you're feeling sad or down because it is a real pick me up just to let loose and enjoy the silliness!!
I went to see the musical with my parents at the Palace Theatre on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue while on holiday in London a few weeks ago, this is what its about and what I thought of it.
Spamalot is the musical version of the popular Monty Python movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a movie that my dad actually appeared in briefly as an extra, playing a peasant in the 'burn the witch' scene. I'll say right off that I found it a disappointment that the musical didn't include this song or scene, since I would have pointed it out to my dad if it was included but oh well.
This is definitely not a 'to be taken seriously' musical at all, its a comedy that features numerous send ups, as anyone who has seen the movie will be aware of. There was one character, the lady of the lake, the love interest, singing very over the top, singing about how this is her song, this is when she gets to sing very loud and be over the top etc., making fun of such songs that are often found in other musicals, indeed later on in the musical she re-appears singing about she is annoyed that she hasn't been included or seen on stage in so long. She also acts as the stereotypical 'love interest' of the main character too...
If your not aware of the story, I'd say that it doesn't have a precise, or strong, story as such, it is so random but the general story is that its set in medieval times in England, where King Arthur (currently being played on the West End by Sanjeev Bhaskar) recruits the knights of the round table and is challenged to find the holy grail. They go to Camelot and to France and encounter many different, rather silly and funny situtations, of different types, while the different characters are poked fun of, such as the prince and Sir Lancelot, to name a couple.
This is very much a farcical spoof on many levels and it was certainly enjoyed by, it seemed, everyone else at the show I went to. Sanjeev did well as King Arthur, poking fun of himself near the start as being an Asian king of England (innit?!). It was quite entertaining and as much as it does poke fun at gay people, jews and even Scots(!) at certain points, it does seem to be done in a very light hearted way, that you know not to take it too seriously, its all just a bit of good, silly fun really. The humour is fairly childish at points, with elements of toilet humour and such like but again that won't surprise anyone who's seen the movie this is based on and it is almost so random and silly that, that makes it funny in itself.
There are quite a few different stage props and sets used in the musical, which add to the OTT-ness of it (Over The Top). The camelot scene particularly comes to mind, that was quite amusing, with large bright, lit up props and an energetic song.
The cast and audience both seemed quite enthusiastic about the show and it seemed to go down very well, at the end there was quite a rapturous round of applause by everyone nearby me, so it seemed to be very popular and im sure that long time Monty Python fans would enjoy this.
It is nice to see a light hearted musical that is funny and doesn't take alot of work to follow, rather than the very serious and complicated musicals that can be around. I think that given the rather pessimistic news and economical situation at the moment, its a good thing to go and see, as some light relief away from the news, so in that respect its quite welcome.
Here's some basic information about the show itself:-
Director - Mike Nichols
Based on the book by - Eric Idle
Musical Score - Eric Idle, John Du Prez
Duration - Approximately 2 hours 20 minuts, including an interval of about 20 minutes (the programme claims its 15 minutes but it over run on Saturday and probably does most days. The 8pm performance I went to ended at about 10:20pm)
Theatre Name & Address (for the London West End version):- Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 8AY.
Ticket Order & Transport Information:- For details, see -
I would like to point out that the location of the theatre makes it quite awkward to find a tube station thats particularly close to it and when we took a bus to Shaftsebury avenue, the stop was quite far back and it involved quite a long walk to get back to the corner where the theatre is, so the transport links aren't particularly good for this theatre, if you find walking a fair distance quite awkward, so do be aware of this. Maybe taking a taxi, if you can afford it, would be better, if this is a problem for you...
Who's Currently Starring in the London Cast? -
We didn't have the best seats, being quite high up 'in the Gods', as I believe they say but my parents and I still enjoyed the show and those around us seemed to too. The only real downsides were that there was extremely little foot room at all in these seats, much less than you get even in an economy class flight! and there was the usual problem with tall people sitting in front blocking our view but we managed to see most of it. Of course there are opera glasses offered between the seats for hire, for 50p a show/go but we didn't have the change for it, so that didn't help.
You can buy programmes for £3.50 and there were a couple of other shop stalls, where you can buy tshirts with the musicals name on it and ones with slogans from the musical (such as 'im not dead' lol) and they probably sell a few other things too, I didn't really pay all that much attention to it.
It was pretty busy around where we sat and so it seemed to be very popular and enjoyed by all, which is a good sign. It was good for a laugh and I enjoyed seeing it, so I would recommend it, especially for Monty Python fans. I had seen the original movie at some point but to be honest I couldn't remember it, had I been more organised I should have watched it again before we went to London but oh well, I didn't so thats too bad.
I hope this review is helpful, thanks for reading it and thanks, as ever, for all r/r/c's. Its also posted on Ciao under my username there (the same name, IzzyS).
There was something reassuring about planning a trip to see Spamalot. Even before going, you pretty much know the entire story, the characters and the jokes. It is either going to be a straight rehash of the 1975 film, or a hybrid of the film and an assortment of the Python's best-loved sketches. Either way, it is going to be as comforting (or excruciating) as watching another Monty Python rerun.
Except it's not. Spamalot is much more than a collection of in-jokes for the Python aficionado to enjoy. It is a superb tribute to the Pythons themselves and to the farce and pretentiousness of modern musical theatre. It has been playing at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue since 2006, but seems to have been there much longer. Indeed, a West End without Spamalot would be a sadder place - some of these musicals are SO serious!
The play, as the film, is losely based on the legends of King Arthur and the knights of his round table, in particular Sirs Robin, Lancelot and Galahad. We follow their quests to find the Holy Grail, fighting the fierce, resisting temptation, and knitting their brows at the very, very silly. Epic films with plots centred on history or legend were cleverly parodied. Television itself was mocked mercilessly. The first time you watch the film end, you sit for a few seconds confused and slightly bewildered - the way you would if slapped with a fish.
Fish-slapping brings us neatly to the stage show. As the curtain rises to the sound of 'Finland, Finland, Finland', you know this is going to cover more of the Python repertoire than just the Holy Grail. The characters on stage seem as confused as the audience. This collusion between actors and audience is the foundation of many of the best shows in the West End.
The film was not a musical, having only one song in it. The stage play is peppered with some of Monty Python's classics. Eric Idle, who was the Python who created the stage play, did not simply leave the show like that. He created a range of numbers with excellent music and witty lyrics. These are sometimes based on single lines from the film, 'He is not dead yet', or satirical swipes at Theatre, 'You won't succeed on Broadway'.
Another significant addition is the part of The Lady of the Lake. Carol Cleveland, frequently used as Pythonesque eye-candy, once remarked that the boys wrote the best female parts for themselves. It is pleasing, therefore, that Idle has created a superb female lead for the stage play. She is perhaps the most important character at facilitating interaction between Arthur and his knights. She also has some of the best, and most difficult shows. In some superb meta-theatre, she reappears throughout the show singing a love song about singing a love song. She also sings the wonderfully disgruntled 'Diva's Lament'. Some people dislike this character as distracting, irritating and pointless but, come on people, THAT is what Monty Python is all about!
The plotlines of Robin, Galahad and Lancelot are expanded and adapted. This creates more interesting, complex characters. You might like this, you might not. Personally, I enjoyed what had been done with the characters. All their key scenes from the film are still there, they have just been expanded. Where there are episodes that are important, but difficult to translate from film to stage, they have been imaginatively covered with technology or just made even sillier.
In recent years, there have been three shows where I've been left nearly hyperventilating because they are so funny: The Producers, The Drowsy Chaparone and Spamalot. I do know one person who doesn't like it, but I know many, many more who do.
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Blood Brothers - Spamalot
To get from the Phoenix Theatre to the Palace Theatre takes 12 minutes by bus, and 3 minutes to walk!
I have just got back from a weekend in London where I was fortunate enough to see Spamalot, which opened in 2006 at the Palace Theatre in the West End, and will run there until January 2009 when it begins a tour of the country. Spamalot has been so successful that it is also running on Broadway and in Las Vegas, as well as having had a sold-out stint in Chicago.
The musical is "lovingly ripped off" as they put it from the film 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. A lot of it is really very similar and in fact some whole scenes of the stage version are worded exactly as they are in the film.
Since June 2008 the part of King Arthur has been played by Sanjeev Bhaskar. I will admit that I was not a fan of his before seeing the show - I tend to find him a little smarmy - but he did a stellar job, and was barely recognisable even from my very good seat! I was extremely impressed with his performance, and he did slip some amusing little references to India in which went down well with the crowd.
For those of you who have never seen the film (shame on you!) here is a brief outline of what it's about. King Arthur (Bhaskar) has been given his mighty sword Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake, sets about to find a gang of brave and noble knights. He in fact ends up with Sir Galahad (Michael Xavier), Sir Lancelot (Jake Nightingale - Dalziel and Pascoe, Casualty, Oliver Twist, Doctors), Sir Robin (Ross Dawes) and Sir Bedevere (Adam Stafford). He is accompanied on his journey by his nice but dim sidekick Patsy (Andrew Spillet, who looks uncannily like Lee Evans whilst in costume), who follows him round with a pair of coconut shells making a clip-clop sound as he doesn't have a horse.
On their way to Camelot (which is made to look like Vegas), the Knights of the Round Table are contacted by God, voiced by John Cleese, who informs them they must find the Holy Grail. So off they set on their journey to find it, encountering killer rabbits, the very persistent Black Knight who wont give up even when he's lost his arms and legs, and a whole host of bizarre events including meeting the Knights Who Say Ni, who wont let them pass until they bring them "a shrubbery".
I'm not usually one for musicals, but this is tongue-in-cheek as they come and was really, truly hilarious. The cast all played their parts exceptionally, and songs included such classics as "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".
Python fans will be glad to hear that essential moments in the film, such as the "I fart in your general direction" speech are kept in.
One word of warning, though - if you are seated in seat B1, C1 or D1, be prepared to get on stage and look silly. In the performance I went to, the person who got up on stage actually didn't even have to do anything ridiculous other than state their name when asked - which was Hans Puterschmidt or something equally funny - which had the crowd and cast falling about.
The only parts of the show I wished I could have skipped past were the parts with the Lady in the Lake, she was quite irritating although clearly supposed to be and still did a good job at her part, even if it wasn't my favourite character. At times she played up at being a pain by imitating Cher, etc when she was singing.
Overall it was a really entertaining night and I fully intend to catch the show at least once more once it begins touring next year. Tickets run from £10 supposedly online, although the theatre is set out such as you would really not be able to see a thing and get a nosebleed for your troubles. We had really good seats but these cost, I believe, as I wasn't paying, around £60 each.
Several years ago, I went to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company show "The Complete Works". For a couple of hours, I sat there doing very little other than laugh. Even once the point where it began to hurt to laugh was passed, I couldn't help myself. Years later and jokes from the show occur to me at strange moments and still make me laugh. In the time since, I have searched in vain for something that funny, so I can once more experience the sheer unbridled joy of laughing until it hurts and then laughing some more.
With "Spamalot", the fun starts before you even get there. Knowing that it's a Monty Python musical, at least for the most part, sets the anticipation up a notch, as do all the quotes on the posters you see all over the Tube (assuming you're a Londoner) and on the internet and everywhere even if you're not. If you've ever seen the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", you have an idea of what to expect as well, and that seemingly assures you of a good time.
The problem with having this much anticipation is that you can be badly let down. It's happened to me before, but it certainly didn't this time. Even from the outside, you're ready for fun, with the theatre decorated in Monty Python style; the cartoon pictures of King Arthur matching those from the films and some amusing mock advertising slogans.
Even the concessions are in on the joke; next to fairly standard fare, such as programmes and t-shirts, you can buy killer rabbit puppets, stress cows, or a Black Knight doll with removable arms and legs and Spam. If one look at the price list of "Ye Olde Rippey Offey Shoppe", as it has been renamed does not make you laugh, then you're possibly at the wrong show. If seeing a catapult kit which flings cows on sale for £17.50 makes you think "should I buy one or two?" instead of "HOW much?" then you're virtually guaranteed a fun night.
The show advertises itself as a musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail and this is obvious from the opening scene with the historian; although fans of the film will be totally thrown by Finland, which immediately follows. The basic story of Spamalot follows the storyline of the film; in that King Arthur collects a group of Knights and goes hunting for the Holy Grail, running into the Black Knight, a bunch of French Knights and the Knights of Ni along the way.
For those who are already fans of the film, all this will be familiar, although the way he finds the Knights of the Round Table is a little different. However, there are parts which will be new to people who arent already fans of the Pythons but like the film, with a couple of more traditional Monty Python bits thrown in. Most of the songs were especially written for Spamalot, so will be new to everyone and there are who new characters, such as the Lady of the Lake, meaning that even the most casual of fans can watch on a level pegging and that you dont need to be a Python fan to see Spamalot, although being so will help you know what to expect.
Thats assuming you ever know what to expect with something involving Monty Python and in Spamalot, you mostly wont. Theres a wonderful mix of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and more modern ideas, including the cheerleaders and gay marriage and with a number of the songs being a little self mocking. But there are also visual gags thrown in, some in the middle of songs, some cameos from Monty Python not all of them songs or sketches - and you need to be watching the whole of the stage all the time as there can be bits happening all over the place, often at once.
The costumes arent really anything special, with most of the characters being either knights or their servants and being dressed appropriately. The Lady of the Lake and the Laker Girls do get some interesting costumes, especially right towards the end and the costumes for Sir Lancelots big number late in the show are certainly eye catching. That said, they do make a great attempt at emulating a couple of the trickier scenes from the film, where the Black Knight loses his limbs and a knight has their head torn off by the Killer Rabbit and whilst it does look a little cheap and dodgy, its the best you could do and many stage shows would have glossed over those parts. For all their lack of show, for the most part, you wouldnt fault the costumes in any way, as they do fit in perfectly.
The scenery and props are far more impressive, with virtually every kind of medium being used. There are parts projected onto screens, God coming down from the skies and a cow launched from a catapult. Admittedly, many of the projections are Monty Python style cartoons and some of the scenery is used for some awful jokes, but there is no doubting that the dark and very expensive forest is exactly that. There are castles to either side of the stage, allowing soldiers to stand in windows and shout down to King Arthur and at the back, the French knights were able to stand on their own battlements and taunt the English.
The cast perform wonderfully. The West End cast doesnt have the same number of stars as the original Broadway version, and I was lucky enough to see Tim Curry as King Arthur at the end of his run. But everyone is wonderfully cast and in the case of some of the knights, you can recognise the original Monty Pythons in them from the film. The voice of God is a huge surprise, but one that fans of Monty Python will welcome with open arms. Tim Curry was certainly up to the part, although he did seem to have a mid-Atlantic accent, as did Sir Galahads, although neither of them sounded as bad as Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves at any point.
The cast do seem to work very well together. At the performance we saw, we were treated to the rare sight of a leading actor corpsing (breaking into laughter) on stage. During the Knights of Ni scene, they managed to make Tim Curry laugh, which I suspect is possibly something they try quite regularly and I was lucky enough to be there the night it worked. It was wonderful to see a cast so relaxed with each other that they could have that kind of fun. In addition, special mention needs to be made for Hannah Waddingham as the Lady of the Lake. Her part is possibly the trickiest musically, as the songs she gets take her through virtually every style of music and singing, many of them in parody, and she performed them all wonderfully.
Oh yes, the songs. After all, Spamalot is a musical and this is what its all about. I enjoyed them so much that I promptly bought the CD of the original Broadway Cast and its been on my CD player ever since. At some point in one of the songs, its likely that your favourite genre is going to be featured or mocked, with songs verging from pop through show numbers to a jazz moment. There are some songs which are there only to appeal to Python fans, with some like Brave Sir Robin carrying over from the film version and others like Finland and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life taken from other parts of the Monty Pythons repertoire. Sadly, it is this latter which proves one of the more disappointing numbers, as it does feel a little as if theyve forced it in to appeal to the fans, rather than because it works within the show and it does lose a lot of the irony when not being sung by men being painfully and slowly killed. The chant that borrows from The Lumberjack Song works completely, though, as well as being more of a surprise.
For me, its the songs that were specially written for Spamalot which prove to be the greatest successes. There are some parts of the film that you wouldnt expect a song to be made from, which makes I Am Not Dead Yet a bit of a shock, as well as it being a jaunty catchy tune which is the one I keep finding myself humming. Of the others, the self referential The Song That Goes Like This is a big show tune that itself mocks big show tunes is possibly the best, although You Wont Succeed is another huge number in a similar vein and Divas Lament, which pretty much mocks the writing of the show itself (and which isnt the only part to do so), is great as well. Find Your Grail reminds me a little of Youll Never Walk Alone and His Name is Lancelot owes much to Copacabana, but theyre fun little numbers, as are most of the songs.
The songs in Act 1 are the strongest, although thats pretty much true of the whole show. The laughs come so thick and fast for the first act, whether they come from the song lyrics or the script, that when the interval came after 50 minutes, Id been laughing so much, I was sure wed been there for longer. Act 2 is not as full on and slows the pace down a little, although it would have been hard to keep up a frantic pace like that, anyway.
This is one of those shows that does the big things very well, ensuring that the basis of the show is right, and then manages to add those little touches that delight and just add value to the show. Adding in bits from the film which could easily have been left out, like the Black Knight losing all his limbs, the voice of God and Sir Not Appearing in This Show provided nice touches and delighted the Monty Python fans. Having things happening all over the stage during some of the set pieces, like the reaction to the commoners in the corner of the stage to the Lady in the Lakes costume and the bale of Hey! in the middle of You Wont Succeed are a little corny, but hilarious additions which many wouldnt have thought of. Its also a show that is not afraid to laugh at itself, mocking its own foibles and drawing attention to its own mishaps, such as Tim the Enchanters flying skills. In this respect and that even the songs join in the mockery, it does remind me a little of Team America: World Police in attitude, if not in substance.
If youve even thought Monty Python was funny, this is a show you cannot afford to miss. The more of a fan you are, the more important it is that you see Spamalot as soon as humanely possible. Similarly to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it is a story that has changed slightly with the new medium, but has been no less funny for it. Admittedly, there are bits that dont work quite as well as others, but for the most part its the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life and I have to look in the mirror! If youre not a Monty Python fan, or hated them, this is something you should avoid as it will do very little to change your mind if youre that certain about it. If you dont know what Monty Python is or know very little about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, much of the show and many of the jokes may be lost of you and youll be bemused by some of the little things many in the audience will be laughing at, but I suspect youll still be largely amused.
This may not be the best show for children, as there is a bit of swearing involved, although not too much. The website does suggest that children as young as 8 could enjoy it, although they do recommend caution in parts, so "Spamalot" should perhaps be considered PG in cinema terms.
Spamalot is currently booking until July 2007 at the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, which isnt too far to walk from either Tottenham Court Road Underground Station. Its a decent looking theatre, with comfortable seating, although I can't comment on how suitable it may be for the disabled. When booking tickets, its worth paying the extra money for the expensive tickets. We were in the stalls in Rows O and P and from there, you can just about see all the stage, right up to the top, where there are things happening. Any further back than that and you risk missing parts of the fun. I cant speak for the view from any other part of the theatre.
The tickets we bought were £58.00 including the booking fee and worth every penny. If I had that kind of money, I would quite happily go back and see it again. Ive already been out to get the soundtrack CD and should there ever be ant kind of DVD release, I shall have a copy of that and probably watch it often enough to wear it out. Going to the theatre in London is an expensive business these days, no matter where you go, but it is rarely this funny or this unmissable. If you want to laugh a lot, get yourself to Spamalot.
I had a ticket to what I thought was the first West End performance of Monty Python's Spamalot. However, while I was in London, I saw a couple of posters advertising performances from 30th of September, two days earlier. Either way, I saw one of the earliest UK performances of this musical.
It advertises itself as 'a new musical lovingly ripped off from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. Certainly, if you've seen the movie, you'll see some stuff you recognise, but there's a lot to the show that wasn't in the film. There are also some jokes pilfered from other Python creations, such as the fish slapping dance, a reference to the dead parrot sketch and the song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
The show is definitely aimed at Python fans, but Spamalot contains some of the best moments from the film and some new jokes, so I'm sure anyone who watches will find themselves laughing.
The show was originally performed in Broadway, and there are a few jokes that are definitely aimed at Americans. The cynic in me wants to say something about the state of this country that even the obviously American jokes are funny to an English audience.
~~~ A Bit of Background ~~~
The Pythons are Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Graham Chapman.
Monty Python were a (mostly) British comedy group that have produced a TV series, Monty Python's Flying Circus, and three movies: Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. There was also And Now for Something Completely Different (but that's basically bits Flying Circus put together differently).
Even people who think they know nothing about Monty Python would probably recognise some of the jokes. They are everywhere. There have been several musical CDs of songs that have been in the various Monty Python creations. There are gimmicky toys in the shops (although the killer rabbit hand puppets are quite cute). They have performed a few live shows and several years ago the BBC did an all night special, playing clips, interviews, documentaries and a movie.
Spamalot opened in 2005 on Broadway and has since started playing in Vegas (sadly, not in the Camelot casino). Finally, Monty Python has returned home to Britain and is now playing in the Palace Theatre in the West End.
Oh, and spam isn't annoying emails, it's a type of processed meat.
~~~ Entering the Theatre ~~~
Outside the theatre is a cardboard cut-out of four French knights peering round a door, with one of the faces missing, so that people can have their photos taking looking through it. This is a shot taken from the movie that Python fans can laugh at and those who havent seen the movie will come out at the end of the show and laugh then.
You can instantly recognise the Python fans by their reactions to the items on sale at "Ye Olde Rippey Offey Shoppe" (well, at least their honest about it). There were stalls in the lobby and bar selling things like killer rabbit slippers, Black Knight dolls with arms and legs that come off and toy catapults complete with cows and wooden rabbits. If you get any of those references, you need to go see this show. If you don't, you need to find a copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail to watch.
There were also on sale CDs of the soundtrack with the Broadway cast, commemorative jars of spam and spam sandwiches. We were stood in the lobby quite a while before taking our seats and I only saw one person by a spam sandwich, but everyone laughed (apart from one guy who didn't seem to know what spam was).
~~~ The Show ~~~
The show is the perfect balance of recognisable bits and new stuff. If it had just been the same material as the movie, I would have felt ripped off. If it had been entirely original jokes, I wouldn't have felt it doing the Pythons justice. As it was, it was brilliant.
It was amazingly funny from the turn off mobile phones announcement all the way to the final curtain. What else could you expect? They kept all the funniest moments from Holy Grail (apart from the witch burning) and the new stuff was just as entertaining.
The acting was excellent. They were working with great materials, but the actors definitely did it justice. There was even one Python voice in there, but I won't spoil the surprise for anyone going to see it.
~~~ The Plot ~~~
Spamalot starts off with King Arthur travelling England with his faithful servant Patsy looking for knights to join him at Camelot. Once hes managed to gather his band, they are approached by God, telling Arthur to go on a quest to find the Holy Grail. So the knights set off, with little luck.
In the second act, the knights have gotten separated, so they have their own little adventures. King Arthur is instructed that he has to put on a West End show, and becomes rather more concerned about that than the Grail. In the end, they find the Grail (the endings very different to the film) and there are some weddings. Another big difference from the film is that Spamalot has a leading lady, the Lady of the Lake and she gets some nice moments with Arthur.
The plot hangs together pretty well considering the storys based on work that began as vaguely connected amusing scenes. But, despite that, the plot is definitely not the best bit about the show. Spamalot is about the humour and the jokes, not the storyline.
~~~ The Scenery ~~~
Excellent scenery. You wouldn't really expect anything else from a West End show, particularly one that's got a fan following before it's even started. There were castles, a forest and a very glitzy, Vegas-style Camelot.
The scenery was on several levels, allowing people to look over castle balustrade or lean out of windows at the side of the stage. There was a trapdoor in the stage that people and scenery could come out of and there was, literally, a deus ex machina that came down from above.
At one point, a screen came down and there was, projected onto it, a Terry Gilliam-style animation.
I cannot fault them for their scenery.
~~~ The Audience ~~~
This was, possibly, the first night and definitely one of the earliest performances. It should therefore be hardly surprising that the audience were Python fans. Maybe there were people there who haven't seen the Pythons before, but they would be in a very small minority.
The audience were such that there were cheers the moment a French knight popped his head above a castle wall, before he'd even said a single line. There were enormous applauses for famous Python jokes. And there were people cheerfully singing along to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
Probably the best way to sum up the audience was to mention that when someone came round in the interval selling ice creams, an audience member yelled out "albatross". And that got a lot of laughs. This is a reference to a Monty Python sketch, and probably one of the more obscure ones, but people got the joke.
I'm not saying that the show is only for Python fans, but there's definitely an intended audience. On the other hand, the Pythons wouldn't have been so successful if they weren't good.
The audience were laughing all through the performance. The applause at the end was deafening. I've never been in a standing ovation before, but this show deserved it. If there was anyone watching who didn't enjoy the show, I didn't see them.
The show was completely sold old. That's probably not surprising, seeing as the show's only just started its West End run, but apparently there are a lot of full house showings in Broadway as well, where it's been running for over a year. I've heard mentioned (but I don't know how reliable the information is) that it is among the most expensive shows to see in Broadway. If it can still get full houses at a high price, they've got to be doing something right.
~~~ A Show for Kids? ~~~
Maybe not. There is a bit of swearing. Not a huge amount, but a little bit and that might put some parents off. I wouldn't recommend showing it to younger children, but older ones would probably be fine.
The movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail is certificate 15. I think Spamalot is probably cleaner than the film (there were references to sex and spanking) but you might want to take that as a guideline.
~~~ The Soundtrack ~~~
Since watching Spamalot, Ive bought myself a CD of the soundtrack. The only version Ive found so far is the Broadway cast. Hopefully thisll change soon, but Im not sure. Other than the singers, the only difference between the songs on this CD and the ones sung on stage was the fact Arthur was told to put on a Broadway show in the Broadway version. This means that in one song, the word Broadway got replaced by West End and showbiz. Otherwise, the soundtrack is the same.
The humour in the songs comes mainly from the lyrics. Yes, theyre performed extremely well, sometimes with dances, so watching the performance is worthwhile, but the songs are still funny when just heard.
Some of the songs were in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. One was in Life of Brian. Finland comes from Flying Circus. And about half of the tracks were written for Spamalot.
3. Historians Introduction to Act I
4. Finland/ Fisch Schlapping Dance
5. Monks Chant/ He is Not Dead Yet
6. Come With Me
7. Laker Girls Cheer
8. The Song that Goes Like This
9. He Is Note Dead Yet (Playoff)
10. All For One
11. Knights of the Round Table/ The Song that Goes Like This (reprise)
12. Find Your Grail
13. Run Away!
14. The Intermission
15. Historians Introduction to Act II
16. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
17. Brave Sir Robin
18. You Wont Succeed on Broadway
19. Divas Lament (Whatever Happened to my Part)
20. Where Are You?
21. His Name is Lancelot
22. Im All Alone
23. Twice in Every Show
24. Act II Finale
25. Always Look On The Bright Side of Life (Company Bow)
You get plenty of tracks for your money compared to a lot of other CDs. My one real complaint about this soundtrack is that it doesnt include the second half of Brave Sir Robin (Brave Sir Robin ran away, bravely ran away away.)
I would recommend buying the CD. I just wouldnt recommend buying it from the theatre. The theatre price will be way above what you could expect to pay for it elsewhere.
~~~ My Recommendation ~~~
I would recommend seeing this show.
If you're a Monty Python fan, this show is a must see.
If you've seen a few Python clips and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this show.
If you've never seen any Python work whatsoever, where've you been hiding?
If you have seen some Python, but didnt like it, then maybe this show isnt for you, but remember that Spamalot is based on some of the best bits from Monty Pythons creations.
I thought this show was exceptionally funny. I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm not exaggerating my reaction to it; I thought it was the best show I've ever seen on the West End.
Don't hold your hopes up about getting any good seats in the near future. My ticket was a birthday present from my boyfriend (my birthday was several months ago, but never mind). He told me that fifteen minutes after ticket sales opened, most of the best seats had gone.
But they're taking bookings for May, so if you don't mind planning ahead, you'll be OK.
I wrote a review on Spamalot for Ciao, but I've edited and added to it for this review.