Go ahead and believe the buzz emanating from the Shubert
big, crowd-pleasing Broadway musical comedy out of the 1975 cult film "Monty
Python and the Holy Grail." The show slays 'em like Excalibur.
"Monty Python's Spamalot" is so polished and user-friendly, in fact, that
those whose adolescences were irreparably warped by "The Holy Grail" - and we
know who we are - will miss the low-budget flick's spiky, unapologetic anarchy.
Although the movie never really bothered with such inconveniences as plot
or character development, Idle, one of the original members of the
groundbreaking British comedy troupe Monty Python, has given "Spamalot" a
smidge of a story. It's just enough to make it plain that nothing much happens
here except a nominal excuse for entirely gratuitous, occasionally inspired
The unevenly amusing Arthurian antics are presented with so much panache,
however, that it's probably churlish to complain. Under the assured, regally
Hank Azaria ("The Simpsons") and Tim Curry ("The Rocky Horror Picture Show")
have an obvious blast as the knights whose quest for the Holy Grail leads them
to a carnivorous bunny, a taunting Frenchman and a preposterously tenacious
The breakout in this boys' club, though, proves to be the show's leading
lady, Sara Ramirez, playing both the Lady of the Lake and, in typically
self-aware Python fashion, the stage diva playing the Lady. Looking demonically
possessed by her own sense of melodrama, Ramirez channels everyone from Sarah
Brightman to Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch. She owns every
self-indulgent display of vocal acrobatics with a hilarious intensity that
makes the character all her own.
Curry, evincing not the slightest effort to conceal his amusement with
himself, oozes good-natured smarm as Arthur. Hyde Pierce, portraying the
cowardly knight Sir Robin (among others), underplays the comedy so slyly that
you might not notice how meticulously he has modulated his performance. Azaria
gets all the really fun parts, playing not only the butch Sir Lancelot, but
also hamming it up as a vulgar French taunter and a woozy Knight of Ni.
Invaluable contributions come from the elastic Christian Borle, in a
variety of roles that include the girly Prince Herbert; Christopher Sieber, as
a vainly blond Sir Galahad, and Michael McGrath, as the grubby second-fiddle
who clip-clops those famous coconuts.
Idle and composer John Du Prez endow "Spamalot" with its own anthem, "Find
Your Grail," both deeply dopey and kind of sweet in spite of itself, and a mock
power ballad called "The Song That Goes Like This." Both are more successful
than the second-act tunes about Jews and gays, which offer little more than
warmed-over political incorrectness.
Set and costume designer Tim Hatley draws equally from the medieval
cartoons from the movie and the glitz of old-fashioned Broadway. Python purists
may wish that the show as a whole resorted less often to cheerily stupid
razzle-dazzle: The Lady of the Lake's "Laker Girls," complete with pompoms, and
a Vegas-ized Camelot are among the show's less clever components.
Still, the creators of "Spamalot" make an effort to include a little
something for everyone. If the opening nonsense about Finland doesn't rouse so
much as a giggle, don't miss the fake in-depth program notes for a musical
about the Finnish economy. It's some of the funniest original material of the
SPAMALOT. Book by Eric Idle, music and lyrics by John Du Prez and Idle,
directed by Mike Nichols. Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th St. between Broadway and
Eighth Avenue, Manhattan. Tickets $36.25-$101.25.
Call 212-239-6200 or