Friday, May 30, 2014

Kotas Reviews Spamalot

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of abandoning my child and stealing my wife away to actually go out on a date. We had tickets to a play, you see. What play was that? Why, the world renowned Broadway hit, SPAMALOT! Did it exceed my expectations? Was it a flaming bag of dog poo on the steps of my existence? Read on to find out! Also, there might be plot spoilers, but you knew that already.

As a child of the 90s, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was a staple of nerd quotations during high school and college. I have probably seen that movie about a dozen times and at one point my my life (admittedly a pretty awkward time in retrospect) I could practically rattle off the script from memory. This may explain a lot of things about me, but let's just assume I'm familiar with the source material. My biggest fear was that the play would just be "scenes from the movie, staged like a play". Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but that style of production would not bring anything really new to the table. So imagine my surprise when the first few bits were entirely nothing like the movie. The opening bits were of the head of the theater's, uh, head, projected in "Monty Python cartoon style" onto a screen to give the introduction. This was followed by a bit of narration from a "professor of English History". That's when the musical number about Finland started.

I believe at this point I turned to my wife and said "Okay, did I take drugs before we came here?" This would not be the last time I said this either. Turns out, the whole Finland opening was because the chorus misheard "England" as "Finland". So our story finally begins. and we get the scene with Arthur and the two guards discussing swallows and coconuts. You know what? It'll be easier to discuss the differences in the plot rather than go through the whole thing. First off, a number of scenes have been removed. Nothing about a witch, no Black Beast of Aaaaaaaaauuugggh, no Castle Anthrax, no Bridge of Death even. Secondly, a lot of scenes have been changed considerably. The French taunting scene is extended quite a bit, with a whole host of French stereotypes thrown in for good measure. Sir Robin and Sir Lancelot get back stories about their pre-knight days (as the dead cart driver and dead cart customer respectively), as does Sir Galahad who gets one of the entirely new scenes with a new character, the Lady of the Lake. Camelot is shown as a Vegas-style adult playground and has more than one musical number. Oh, there are MANY musical numbers. Some are awesome, like the heartfelt and ridiculous "Find your Grail". Some are incredibly meta-humorous jabs at musical theater, such as the multiple versions of "The Song That Goes Like This" which is about how there is always a song that "goes like this" in musicals. Some are, well, somewhat shocking, such as the song about how Lancelot is gay and the song about how you need Jews to do Broadway musicals...complete with full costumes and giant dreidel decorations. I was really taken aback by that one, though it reminded me a bit of Blazing Saddles style comedy.

The characterizations are pretty much the same as they were in the film, though Sir Bevedere gets a lot less screen stage presence. Lancelot turns out to be gay in this go around, and all Sir Robin really wants to do is be an entertainer. Sir Galahad is actually the peasant Dennis (of being oppressed fame) but doesn't have much to do after that part of the show. The Knights who Say Ni are given a bigger role, as they must be appeased with "a big Broadway musical". The Lady of the Lake is a main character rather than a part of a beloved joke, though the joke remains. Patsy gets a few more lines and some actual characterization (and one of the better jokes of the show). There is a lot of singing and dancing, with several elaborate musical numbers.

The whole show wraps up with a couple of weddings: Lancelot and Prince Hubert (the prince from that castle with the wedding that Lancelot crashes), and Arthur and The Lady of the Lake Guinevere. Why? Because all musicals have to end with weddings apparently.

On the FACE Rating System, I give Spamalot 2 smiley faces. It was an excellent adaptation of the movie, with enough things both fresh and familiar to please newcomers and old fans alike. The musical numbers were impressive, even if some of the jokes didn't quite hit the mark. If you get a chance, I highly recommend seeing it. Just makes sure you know where your towel is. Oh, wait, forget that last part. Wrong British Humorist.