On Friday, January 21, I was fortunate enough to see Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago (soon to be named the LaSalle Bank Theatre).
Spamalot is the stage musical “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Some, not all, elements of the movie are here, along with pieces from other Monty Python flicks and sketches; they even manage to work in a group variation of the fish-slapping dance. There’s very little dialogue, just enough to sew the various components and songs together into a semblance of a plot. But who needs plot with such comedy and such performances?
The distinguished-looking Tim Curry, complete with infectious, devilish, yet somehow vacuous grin, is wonderful and strangely sexy as Arthur, trying to convince peasant collectives and rude French retainers that he is King of the Britons. His knights of the Round Table, led by Hank Azaria as Sir Lancelot and David Hyde Pierce as the not-so-brave Sir Robin, as well as the supporting cast of singers and dancers, bring high energy to this silly tale of masochistic monks, killer rabbits, a testy God, and a “watery tart,” the Lady of the Lake who gives Arthur his authority (such as it is) through Excalibur.
Oddly for a show that was developed by and about an all-male troupe, it’s the luscious, voluptuous Sara Ramirez who’s in the limelight as the scantily clad Lady of the Lake and the peevish diva who, in a long and hilarious number during the second act, informs us that she’s been kept backstage too long. Most of us agreed. She has a beautiful voice, able to warble softly, to belt out, or to try out a number of styles, including scat.
Of course, the plot is ostensibly about the quest for the Holy Grail. Within this framework, there’s room for silly and ironic humour about everything from the flight speed of African swallows, George W. Bush, farting and expectorating, gays, Broadway in Chicago, and even the prominence of Jews on Broadway (even though it’s acknowledged that’s 1,000 years in the future in a country that hasn’t been discovered).
The sets and the staging are brilliant, and even the signature foot (along with a partner) makes an appearance. The most ingenious moment is the re-creation from the film of the duel with the knight who just doesn’t know when to admit defeat.
Monty Python’s Spamalot is filled with catchy tunes, solid dancing and singing, colourful costumes and sets, barely covered female flesh, and laughs. If you’re a Monty Python fan or if you need to laugh long and loud, this is the show to see.
Footnote: While I was waiting in line in the doorway of the women’s room during intermission, I heard a door open across the hallway from me and turned around to find myself face to face with Eric Idle. I didn’t say anything, but the poor man was soon surrounded by a crowd. He’s taller than I realised, and a bit stooped. Added a special moment to a great evening.