Last night we went to see Spamalot. It was our surprise Christmas present for the kids (which really came from out of the blue, as we’re not frequent attendees of touring Broadway shows).
A splendid time was had all-around. We stopped downtown for dinner at a fancy schmancy bistro, and we enjoyed the show immensely. So, just stop reading now if you don’t want to hear any of my whining.
The problems that I had with it were two-fold, and they both stem from exactly the weird place that you think of when you say “Monty Python musical.”
On the one hand, if Monty Python were really doing a musical, I doubt it would have looked much like this one. True, the involvement of Eric Idle lent a smidge of credibility to the proceedings (as did John Cleese as the voice of God). However, a re-hashed version of something they did 30 years ago isn’t exactly what I’d expect (no matter how brilliant the original source material).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I laughed. A lot. But it was mainly at the new stuff. The bits that they played straight from the movie kinda fell flat. And I really, really cringed at their use of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as a cheer-up song for Arthur. The main impact of that song came from the fact that it’s sung by a chorus of the crucified trying to cheer up Brian the mistaken Messiah in Life of Brian. Here it’s just cheesy and has no irony whatsoever.
So, the first problem I had was a slight disappointment that the show wasn’t exactly up to some mythical Python standard. That was easy to get over, because the show is fast-paced enough to know when to “skip a bit, brother” and get to something new and funny.
The second problem was the audience. Most of them were like Clay Aiken (the newest member of the actual Broadway cast) who “until about three months ago thought Monty Python was a person.” (Of course, this brings me back to point A–is it really a Python work if Clay Aiken feels comfortable in it?)
The rest of the audience were the ones who dragged the others to the show and chattered on incessantly explaining all the bits to their bewildered dates. We had to restrain Pepperkat from turning around and hitting one of them with a full-strength spray of sarcasm. (“You mean this was a movie before it was a play? No wuh-hay!”)
BUT (and it’s a big but) we still had a really, really good time, and I’m seriously thinking of squirreling away some pennies to go to another show. I think I’d like to see Wicked or Avenue Q. Or both!