Article 161

"Spamalot" provides a knight of big laughs

Haven't you had enough doom and gloom to last for a while? Then no better reason to beat a path to see the most sublimely silly and most entertaining show to ever hit the King Center stage. It's the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy, Monty Python's "Spamalot." It stars a very charming and engaging Richard Chamberlain in the role of King Arthur.

We first see him trotting, as if were, onto the stage in a hippity-hop gait, as if he were a child pretending to be on a horse, while his servant bangs coconut halves to make clip clop hoof sounds. Yes, this is Richard Chamberlain, the actor with the matinee-idol appeal who carved his name into show-biz history with leading roles in dramas such as "Dr. Kildare," "The Thorn Birds" and "Shogun." But here, Chamberlain gets in touch with his inner comic to go on a delightfully daffy, frequently naughty and oh-so-colorful quest to find the Holy Grail.

This is the third time I've seen this show and at Tuesday's opening I laughed as hard and felt as juvenile as I did the first time I saw: The Knights Who Say Ni, Good Sir Knight who gets all his limbs chopped off but still wants to fight, a quartet of French Guards who let loose with every offense in the book, all in the general direction of King Arthur and the rest of the Brits, Terry Gilliam-inspired animation and so very much more.

In case this is sounding a bit odd to you, then perhaps you never saw "Monty Python's Flying Circus," the British comedy show which ran 1969 to 1974 in England and for years on PBS.

The television show spawned the 1975 movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which was the inspiration behind this 2005 Tony Award winning Broadway show. The musical's book and lyrics are by Eric Idle, one of the original Monty Pythoners. John DuPrez composed the music. The show was directed by Mike Nichols and has eye-popping set and costumes by Tim Hatley.

But as much as you will fall for the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" visual gags and goofy lyrics with deadpan delivery, you'll melt for Chamberlain's endearing performance. This talented star of television and film has a sophisticated stage Úlan. He sings, dances, and does his own share of double-take shtick and all with good humor and infectious sweetness.

In fact, the whole cast pumps a lot of energy onto the stage and gives the audience more than their money's worth.

Christopher Sutton is a ton of fun in "Not Dead Fred," the Minstrel, Prince Herbert and the Historian. Matthew Greer shows a deep well of humor in his many roles, Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter. Merle Dandridge is a whole lotta woman and a whole lotta singer as The Lady of the Lake and lets loose in "The Song That Goes Like This." James Beaman amps up the humor in "You Won't Succeed on Broadway."

Moreover, this touring production looks fresh and shiny new. It has no signs of wear and tear. It rips with energy from beginning to end and by the time the two hours are over, you'll be beaming from ear to ear. Indeed, if it's a load of laughs you want, a load of laughs you get at Monty Python's "Spamalot."

Richard Chamberlain Online