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Monty Python's Spamalot
Member Name: 87degrees
Monty Python's Spamalot
Advantages: Funny, hillarious, entertaining, amusing, extremely funny
Disadvantages: The good seats will sell out ages in advance
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 havenít 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 heís 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 endingís 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 storyís 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, Iíve bought myself a CD of the soundtrack. The only version Iíve found so far is the Broadway cast. Hopefully thisíll change soon, but Iím 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, theyíre 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. Historianís 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. Historianís Introduction to Act II
16. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
17. Brave Sir Robin
18. You Wonít Succeed on Broadway
19. Divaís Lament (Whatever Happened to my Part)
20. Where Are You?
21. His Name is Lancelot
22. Iím 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 doesnít include the second half of Brave Sir Robin (ďBrave Sir Robin ran away, bravely ran away away.Ē)
I would recommend buying the CD. I just wouldnít 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 didnít like it, then maybe this show isnít for you, but remember that Spamalot is based on some of the best bits from Monty Pythonís 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.
Summary: A new musical lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
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