When award winning shows that have made their name and money in the fancy footlights of Broadway rock into town, y’know what you are going to get. After all it’s a ringing endorsement from punters to critics. Spamalot is such a show, having been seen by more than two million people, grossed over $175m and won the Tony Award for Best Musical way back in 2005 as well having been nominated for a few Oliviers over here, it continued its national tour with a week’s residency at the Manchester Palace Theatre.
And as you’d expect it doesn’t disappoint.
There is something quintessentially British about Monty Python. Comprising of Oxbridge alumni their humour was less “lol” as the kids would say these days, and more a gentle guffaw. They are the very definition of amusing in my humble opinion. Of course their golden days are well and truly behind them or so you would think.
Spamalot is written by Python legend Eric Idle and is a musical comedy adapted from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Even though this stage version stars none of the Pythons there is something distinctly Pythonesque about the cast performances. If you close your eyes you can almost hear the voices of Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and John Cleese et al in the scenes. Not that it is to their detriment, after all, this is a show “lovinging ripped off from the motion picture” and it gives them license to be as silly as the Pythons would be if they were on stage themselves.
Devotees of Python, and there were many in the audience dear reader, will be pretty pleased with this stage production. It runs like a greatest hits compilation cassette tape, with scenes from the film carefully recreated, ranging from the French taunterer to the classic black knight.
What the stage production does is give it an extra dimension through the music of John du Prez. The song ‘I am not dead yet’ is a fine example of how it combines the silliness of Python’s acerbic humour with a musical number. Indeed, Eric Idle himself thinks it was the number ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ that was able to convince everyone to back him in this venture.
However, sometimes not everything works. Python’s best loved song has been ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” but that was featured in the film Life of Brian, and somehow has been shoehorned into this stage production. For many Python fans they are happy to overlook this, and more than happily to sing along when it is belted out in all it’s glory.
Yet, as an adoring Python fan myself, I can’t help but feel that if they were going to include their most notable musical hit, then they should have just gone the whole hog and worked in all their greatest hits. The more astute among you will no doubt point out that there is non Holy Grail content in the form of the “Fisch Schlapping Song” and a bar from “Spam” worked into “Knights of the Round Table” number. But if you ask me, it’s perhaps too subtle and needs to be like the proverbial fish itself, slapped in your face.
Nonetheless, let’s not be too harsh. After all, this is meant to be a rompful night of rollingking good fun. And that’s what it is, you’ll laugh, you’ll sing and in true Python fashion you will be completely and utterly silly about the whole god damn thing.
Verdict: The musical stage version of the classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail will have you whimsically laughing out loud to classic scenes and singing along to the tunes. It’s unashamedly Python.