note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Susan Daniels
Like rapid gun fire, the laughs come fast in furious in “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” a production so well cast, so superbly acted, and so well realized that it matches all the high marks of its Broadway predecessor. With books and lyrics by Eric Idle, one of the six creators of the internationally popular film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and music by long time collaborator John Du Prez, the show, currently running at the Colonial Theatre through April 15, delivers all the jokes, sight gags, jests, double takes, spoofs, and silly, irreverent humor that the public has grown to expect from the comedy team that brought us knights prancing around the countryside on invisible horses while bashing together empty coconut halves to replicate the clopping sound of hooves.
The plot relays the legendary tale of King Arthur, a Celtic British king of the 6th century A.D. who fought against the Saxon invaders of England, and his Knights of the Round Table, who he finds along the way in one humorous schtick after the other. In his quest for the Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, the king comes upon a chorus line of dancing divas and knights; flatulent Frenchmen; killer rabbits; a Vegas casino-styled Camelot; a forest with ear-piercing, screwy inhabitants; a dancing monk and nun reminiscent of John Travolta’s moves in “Saturday Night Fever”; a sumptuously gorgeous gospel-singing, jazz-crooning Lady of the Lake; and an armless, legless Black Night, who, even while impaled on a door, closes out the scene by singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” - originally written as a bitingly sarcastic song delivered on the cross in the popular 1979 Python movie “Life of Brian” - yet performed here in a manner consistent with the title.V Helmed by Mike Nichols, one of the leading directors of stage and screen for more than 30 years, the show zips along at an energetic rate.With his deft touch and savvy direction, he creates a space where the camaraderie amongst the talented cast flourishes. It is a feeling so palpable that one would think everyone involved in the production has been running around the English countryside forever pillaging villages or protecting damsels in distress.
Of course, in true Python fashion, “Spamalot” draws on every cliche imaginable from the spot-on choreography, to the costumes that, at times, visually mimic a 10-year-old boy’s style of humor, to the sets that create the funny, fantasy world of the Arthurian legend . . . yet look like they’d fall down with just a light tap.
There’s a line in the second act that says “Broadway is filled with people who can sing and dance. Often at the same time.” Naturally, it gets a big laugh, as does much of the dialogue in the the show. Yet the line accurately describes the overall production: a show filled with people who can not only sing and dance - and act as well - but can put a shine on the armor of any errant knight.
The comic elements of “Spamalot” - and let’s face it, that’s really what it’s mostly about - surpass with flying colors the films and TV skits from the Pythons’ original material. All of which dusted off the memory of myself as a moderately amused fan of the Python movies during the 1970s. But sitting in the theater last week, I was laughing and clapping enthusiastically with a silly grin from ear-to-ear. What more could those crazy British (and one American) lads want?
“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” through April 15; The Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston Street, Boston. Tickets are $37.50 - $90. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 617-931-2787 or visit Ticketmaster.com. - 30 -