In a time when all the news is bad, and the economy is crumbling before our eyes, Spamalot is a breath of fresh air, a nice piece of silliness in an otherwise gloomy world.
Spamalot is based on the film, "Monty Python and The Holy Grail." Written by Mondy Python alumnus Eric Idle, it is done as a slightly surreal musical, telling the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on their quest for the Holy Grail.
First of all, it's great to see Richard Chamberlain cavorting on the stage as King Arthur. At 75, he looks fabulous and did a remarkable job in the musical numbers. Who knew he could sing? Chamberlain is a natural for the part of King Arthur, because he has a commanding presence yet is able to lose himself in the sillier parts of the show. During the Knights who say "Ni" segment, there was a humorous nod to "Calling Dr. Kildaire," to which Chamberlain gave a bemused chuckle.
The cast, as a whole, is so talented; singing, dancing, tapping– many of them playing multiple parts– and they looked like they were having so much fun and conveyed such a sense of joy, it was impossible not to be pulled into the buoyant mood of the show. Merle Dandridge, who played the original Lady of the Lake on Broadway, has magnetism, a spectacular voice, and knock-out body. James Beaman brought down the house as Sir Robin, the knight who'd rather sing and dance than fight.
Matthew Greer was a surprise and a delight in Sir Lancelot's gay coming-out scene in which his clothes are ripped away to reveal, sequinsed undies. His La Cage Aux Folles-like number with the dancing boys, was a complete delight. Christopher Sutton as Prince Herbert, Not Dead Fred, and a host of other characters, bore a striking resemblance to Eric Idle. It amazed me that they did, in some cases, find people who physically resembled the original Monty Python crew.
A lot of credit for the success of the show has to be given to set & costume designer Tim Hatley, and lighting designer Hugh Vanstone. The spectacular set with moving castles, mountains and forests came to life through digital imagery. The spectacle of Camelot turning into Vegas with glitz galore and dancing girls was an astonishing treat. Effects such as the killer bunny who beheads a knight onstage, and the Black Night who has all his limbs cut off, was very remarkably achieved on stage through the use of novel costuming.
At the end of the show, when the cast bids the audience to join then in a round of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," you feel like there just might be hope for the world yet. A definite go see!
© 2009 Sally Bosco
Richard Chamberlain Online