IF you’ve gone to a night at the theater;
AND you hear one patron say to another, “Can you please remove your horns? They’re blocking my view of the stage;”
AND the conductor shoots one of the trumpet players twice during the opening number (and the musician finishes the show);
AND the audience starts singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” before the cast does;
THEN you are probably watching Monty Python’s Spamalot, a musical “lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy” (hey, that’s the website calling it a ripoff, not me). Eric Idle is mostly responsible for the stage version of the movie lovingly ripped off from Arthurian legend, but during the second act the musical veers off from a straightforward retelling of Monty Python and the Holy Grail into something just as funny and perhaps better.
Since Monty Python’s Flying Circus made its name by parodying the very medium in which it existed (television), and broke the fourth wall with gleeful frequency, and since the movies made their names by parodying the very medium in they exist (film), and broke the fourth wall with gleeful frequency, Idle has chosen to parody the very medium in which Spamalot exists (theater), and breaks the fourth wall with gleeful frequency: the female lead gets to sing a big show-stopping second act song about how she doesn’t get to sing a big show-stopping second act song; there’s a song that goes like this entitled “The Song That Goes Like This;” and the music composed for the show is deliberately overblown, mawkish, and tasteless (and therefore well-composed, genuine and tasteful, as only a Python can do). The cast of the San Francisco show is very good, but I have a sneaking feeling that Spamalot would succeed with a weak cast precisely because of the weak cast. If the show ever wanders into your town, you should see it, even if (perhaps especially if) it’s produced by the local high school’s drama club.
Vonn Scott Bair