Book and Lyrics: Eric Idle
Music: John Du Prez and Eric Idle
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Audrey Pointer
Loosely based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot is a stage work largely developed by the most musical python, Eric Idle, in collaboration with John Du Prez. The show opened in 2005, earning a Tony award for Best Musical of that year, and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album in 2006. Popular funnyman Joe Pasquale heads the bill as King Arthur on this UK tour, after playing the rôle in the West End.
The show is both a spoof of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and of musicals in general. With tried-and-tested classic comic Python material at his disposal, Idle has a great starting point. The key scenes of the film are here, reinterpreted for the stage in amusing and creative ways – or “lovingly ripped off” as the programme puts it. There are also additional elements, including new songs and new characters, all of which fit well into the glorious melange.
Hugh Durrant’s five-entrance, multi-level set has a forest to one side and a castle to the other. At the back is an archway with a sliding door that opens at various times to reveal The Lady of The Lake (Sarah Earnshaw), Tim the Enchanter (Jamie Tyler) and the excellent live band, among other things. Costume styles range from the silly medieval to the modern. The sound and lighting designs, by Terry Jardine and Avgoustos Psillas – and Nick Richings respectively, are of very high quality, and Jenny Arnold’s bold choreography enhances the work a great deal. Christopher Luscombe’s direction is sure-footed in this laugh-a-second work. Every opportunity for humour is exploited, both visually and through clever wordplay, including gags with a bale of hay and a monk seeking relief for the poor.
Pasquale plays down theregal quality of Graham Chapman’s King Arthur,bringing insteada thoroughly likeable low-key quality to the rôle. He gets perhaps the biggest laughs of the evening through adlibs and his playful potential to ‘corpse’ his co-stars. Earnshaw is magnificent, with a voice so powerful she could blow the roof off. As well as thrilling us with her vocal range and control, she also amuses with delicious parody in knockout musical numbers – ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ and ‘Diva’s Lament’. Todd Carter (Patsy), well known for his 12 years as EastEnders’ Mark Fowler, doesn’t have much to do in act one, but comes good in act two with ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’. Of the other main performers, Will Hawksworth deserves praise for his portrayal of Sir Robin, Richard Kent for his Prince Herbert and Richard Meek for Prince Herbert’s Father. But there are plenty of other gems too from an energetic and more than capable ensemble.
Spamalot is wonderful entertainment, with singing, dancing, silliness and surprises a-plenty. It also has a vein of warmth running through it, helped, no doubt, by the fact that Monty Python is part of the comedy DNA of the nation. The show is impeccably crafted and makes great use of its multi-talented cast. For Python fans, musical comedy doesn’t get any better than this.
Runs until: 21st February 2015