The Knights of the Round Table with their favorite lunchmeat. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
If there’s any justice in the world, when Eric Idle dies, he’ll be greeted by an oversize foot kicking him squarely in the jaw and an ethereal voice saying, “It’s God, you stupid twit.” Idle, the former Monty Python member who conceived Spamalot, currently playing at the Warner Theatre through March 18, takes jabs at deities, gays, Jews, the Finnish, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and countless more poor saps during the musical, which opened on Broadway in 2005 and has been touring ever since. Needless to say, it isn’t for the easily offended. But that’s the whole point of Python, which gave us the immortal line, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”
Spamalot, which describes itself as a “musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” is exactly that, with the addition of music by Idle and composer John Du Prez (another Monty Python collaborator whose oeuvre includes music from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trilogy). King Arthur (Arthur Rowan), who believes he’s divinely ordained to rule dreary, plague-ridden England in 932 AD, travels the country with his loyal servant Patsy (Michael J. Berry), looking for knights to join his cause. Before long, he’s gathered a posse that includes homicidal maniac Sir Lancelot (Adam Grabau), mama’s boy Sir Dennis Galahad (Jacob L. Smith), and cowardly knight Sir Robin (Kasidy Devlin).
Possibly because producers insisted the show included a female character who did more than run around in suspenders and a bra (just like dear papa), Idle added the character of the Lady of the Lake to Spamalot, a mysterious being who grants assistance to Arthur and his men, including the gift of Excalibur. The Lady (Brittany Woodrow) is also responsible for most of the show’s self-referential moments, including a duet with Arthur titled “The Song That Goes Like This,” and a second-act number, “The Diva’s Lament,” that wonders whatever happened to the lady’s role. Woodrow has a powerful presence, but even she can’t redeem what’s possibly the most heterosexual-male-friendly Broadway musical in history.
Nevertheless, despite some weaker songs and a cast whose accents veer from Cockney to South African, Spamalot is unapologetically entertaining, incorporating standout characters from The Holy Grail such as the French taunter (Grabau), King Ni (also Grabau), and the indefatigable Black Knight (Jacob L. Smith), who insists he’s winning despite King Arthur having chopped off all of his limbs (make your own Charlie Sheen and Newt Gingrich jokes here). The show’s juxtaposition of deliberately cheap set elements (scrolls depict moving scenery) and high-tech ones (animated cartoons, elaborate Vegas-style scenery and costumes) evokes Python at its best—irreverent, surreal, and, at times, utterly bonkers. It’s hard not to enjoy Spamalot, even if it’s no holy grail of theater.
Spamalot is at the Warner Theatre through March 18. Tickets are available through the Warner’s website.