Monty Python’s Spamalot is certainly terrible, but it is gloriously terrible, it revels in the aspiration to be bad and as a result it is quite gloriously good.
As everyone in Melbourne must surely know by now, Spamalot is a new musical production, based on the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Championed and written by Eric Idle, who along with composer John Duprez is responsible for the lyrics and music, Spamalot is a hugely successful, Tony award (2005) winning production making its Australian debut in Melbourne. Directed by the famed director Mike Nichols, Spamalot is a particular re-telling of the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table legend, in which the noble King acquires his valiant knights and sets off to find the Holy Grail, as per god’s specific instructions. Along the way adventure ensues, as does a trip to Las Vegas.
Monty Python’s Spamalot is a spectacularly entertaining production. It is fast paced, with never a dull moment and, for me, readily conjures up the image of a precocious school boy having been given access to all the best quality actors, technicians, designers and money available in order to stage the school spectacular he has written. Eric Idle balances along the edge of so bad it’s good brilliantly and consequently this is a high quality production. Idle uses a self referential style to fondly parody musical theatre icons and to parody Spamalot itself.
Also, if you like to look at lovely ladies in skimpy costumes, with ample stage presence, then this is the show for you.
For fans of Monty Python there are abundant familiar moments from the movie, Monty Python style projections (designed by Elaine J. McCarthy) are very cleverly used throughout and the orchestration (conductor Peter Casey) is enthusiastic.
The cast, ensemble included, rise to the challenges of this production with great verve. Consequently it is hard to choose stand-out performers. I do though have a particular soft spot for Bille Brown. His King Arthur carries off a stunningly vacuous benevolence which is so joyous to watch. Derek Metzger, Jason Langley and Ben Lewis also did not put a foot wrong and were consistently captivating. It is unfortunately easier to choose a performer who didn’t quite seem up to it on the night, with Stephen Hall’s Sir Lancelot appearing a bit tired and distracted in contrast to the other performers. It should be said though, that his other characters, including the popular French Taunter, did not suffer from this seeming lack of focus.
Monty Python’s Spamalot does require a lot of energy and versatility from its performers, with most taking on several roles, and for the most part the performers proved themselves well and truly up to the demands of this production, giving the audience the impression that ‘it must be fun to perform’!
Special mention, I feel needs to be made of Lucinda Shaw as The Lady of the Lake, the only female character in Spamalot aside from the ensemble. She glamorously bulldozes her way on to the stage, gorgeously attired in an array of sparkling costumes (set and costume design by Tim Hatley), singing badly in that special way that only someone who can actually sing very well is able to manage.
From the opening moments of this production it was clear that the audience wanted to love the show, and they were not disappointed. Monty Python’s Spamalot manages to fulfill the expectations of fans and novices alike; it even prompted a spontaneous sing-along moment prior to the scripted one.
Monty Python’s Spamalot is a wicked and delicious production, it feels like bad theatre turned good and I do encourage you to come and revel in it. As a piece of musical theatre, it is a mutinous laugh-riot, but one which showcases an impressive cast of Australian performers.
MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre | 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Season: Tickets currently on sale until May 25, 2008
Times: Tues 8:00pm OR Wed 1:00pm*; Wed - Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 6.30pm; Matinees Wed* & Sun @ 1.00pm, Sat @ 2.00pm
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012
*Tuesday 8:00pm Dates
4, 11 December
8, 15, 22, 29 January
5, 12 February
*Wednesday 1:00pm Dates
19, 26 December