(CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)
I'm no fan of lavish Broadway excess, but I didn't mind the brilliantly produced Spamalot all its glitz and gimmicks are employed to satirize the sensationalism I find so distasteful.
Comedy legend Eric Idle and composer John Du Prez based the 2005 Tony Award-winning musical on the 1974 film parody of the Arthurian legend, Monty Python And The Holy Grail and incorporated a liberal sprinkling of other classic TV and movie Python bits. Familiar with the source material, Spamalot audiences find themselves laughing before the punch lines.
But who knew that Python fans and musical theater buffs could find such common ground? The former giggle in anticipation of the smart silliness of fish-slapping, "I'm not dead yet," "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and the Killer Rabbit, while the latter chortle knowingly at The Phantom of the Opera's chandelier descending ridiculously for "The Song That Goes Like This," King Arthur's foray into "the very expensive forest," The Lady of the Lake's "Diva's Lament" and the boffo production number "You Won't Succeed on Broadway (Without a Jew)." Not to mention references to Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story and many other Broadway shows.
Whew! It's a jam-packed two hours with terrific performances from Broadway at the Academy's touring version. Michael Siberry is an amusingly befuddled Arthur; stunning Pia Glenn is hysterical as well as histrionic as The Lady of the Lake (supported by those medieval cheerleaders, The Laker Girls); and Barrymore Award-winner Christopher Sutton (a favorite for years at the Walnut Street Theatre) is entertaining in a variety of silly roles.
Tim Hatley's set design Camelot as Las Vegas neon nightmare puts a giant Trojan bunny, several castles and God's giant feet onstage, as well as hundreds of costumes ranging from Dark Ages plague victims and French mimes to many, many spangly and skimpy chorus girl outfits. The production's incredibly lavish; we see exactly where its huge budget went. No Python skit is too obscure, no pun is too silly, no deity (of the cosmos, or musical theater) is too sacred. Every penny's spent to make us laugh.
And we do, we do.
Spamalot, Through April 8, Kimmel Center's Broadway at the Academy Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org