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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


Spamalot

Spamalot
Michael Siberry (on top of) Jeff Dumas
As well publicized, Monty Python's Spamalot is a stage musical "lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Launched on Broadway in February of 2005, it is still a hot ticket, even after many in the original cast have departed. Expertly directed by Mike Nichols, the show has capitalized on its crossover appeal to fans of the work of the Monty Python comedy team (Python member Eric Idle wrote the musical's book and lyrics, and he collaborated with John Du Prez on the music).

In its tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table in search of the Holy Grail, Spamalot takes several detours from the original film, with added material from other Monty Python works and new material written in the spirit of the group's comedy sense. The throughline is uneven, but the idea appears to be to throw a lot of broad comedy bits out there and hope people laugh at what sticks, and overlook what doesn't. There is an obvious sentimental component to the audience reaction (one audience member behind me yelled "Yeah!" nearly about every time a joke from The Holy Grail was presented), but everyone may not find value in seeing favorite comedy skits appear on stage in a musical, just because they do. The new material has an essence of the particular style of British humor successfully exploited by Monty Python, but is not at the genius level of the original content.

There is a lot to laugh at here, mostly due to the quality of the original source material (who else can make the names Dennis and Tim the focus of so many funny lines?). It's not necessarily funnier with big sets and props, but it is as funny. Spamalot songs are often redundant (for instance, the humor of "I Am Not Dead Yet" is in the low-key delivery of the original dialog; song and dance isn't really necessary and doesn't make it funnier), and several are of the self-referential style that has become popular in contemporary musicals ("look - we're on stage in a musical and we know it"). The references to other musicals is a nice addition, especially the more subtle ones. The best song overall is "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life," from another Monty Python film, The Life of Brian, and is a spotlight for the actor who plays Patsy. The new "Brave Sir Robin," "Where Are You?", and "I'm All Alone" are comedy treats.

One way of casting a first national tour is to cast actors who are similar in appearance to the original Broadway cast. That concept is accomplished with great success here. Michael Siberry (King Arthur), David Turner (Sir Robin), Rick Holmes (Sir Lancelot), Bradley Dean (Sir Dennis Galahad, The Black Knight), Tom Deckman (Not Dead Fred, Prince Herbert), and Jeff Dumas (Patsy) may not be Tim Curry, David Hyde-Pierce, Hank Azaria, Christopher Sieber, Christian Borle, and Michael McGrath - but in costume they are very similar in appearance and give credible performance, though without the natural star quality of the Broadway counterparts. Pia Glenn ratchets the over-the-topness of the role of The Lady of the Lake a bit too far; she has a lovely voice, but it doesn't succeed at the decibel level required for the part. Great work is provided by the Ensemble and those in smaller supporting roles.

Monty Python's Spamalot runs through October 1 at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh. For ticket and performance information, visit www.pgharts.org or call 412) 456-6666.

Bonus Event: See what happens after the curtain comes down! Join the company of the national tour of Monty Python's Spamalot on Thursday, September 28th at 10pm for an unforgettable evening of song, dance and surprises at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square. The CLO Cabaret's Music Director, Deana Muro, will warm-up the crowd. beginning at 9:30pm.

All proceeds will benefit the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, The Phyllis Newman Cancer Research Fund, Prevention Point, Persad, Shepard Wellness Community and the Pittsburgh Aids Task Force! We guarantee a great KNIGHT out!

Tickets will be sold at the door, $8 or $5 with a student I.D.


Photo: Joan Marcus


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-- Ann Miner

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