Sunday, January 15, 2012

"We eat ham and jam and spam a lot"

Spamalot is a perfect musical for people who are not into musicals. It also happens to be a great musical for people who love musicals because it spoofs everything there is to love about musical theater. Spamalot is tailored for fans of Monty Python and you can hear the diehard fans howl at the appearance of the Knights of Ni and the Black Knight, but with references to Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and Company the show was truly written for musical theater fans. For these reasons, I had to return to the show for its' one night engagement at Stephens Auditorium in Ames last night.

Spamalot is a bit of a contradiction in that the plot is thin, King Arthur and his knights are on a mission from God to find the holy grail, but there is always so much activity on stage that it can be tricky to catch all of the gags. The writers even point out with the dialogue how ridiculous the plot is, "God, the almighty and all-knowing, has misplaced a cup?" As absurd as it may be, that notion serves as an excellent jumping off point for shenanigans and show tunes.

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
Spamalot is particularly adept with wordplay and physical gags. In one instance, a bale of hay passes on the front of the stage as the actors shout "Hey!" during "You Won't Succeed on Broadway." There are many "Who's On First" style scenes fraught with mix-ups and misunderstandings that make your head spin.

The music ranges from the Vegas send-up "Knights of the Round Table" to the uber-spoof "The Song That Goes Like This," which has nothing to do with the characters or plot advancement and serves only to point out that a typical show has a bombastic number at that point in the show. The song features the actors overacting like hell while singing about overacting like hell. Yet with all the winks, nudges, and silliness the music is well written and catchy in just the way you would expect from a Broadway musical comedy.

"Knights of the Round Table
The entire company capably handles the physicality of the numbers and the demands of the music. Though the company does not amaze or surprise with their level of talent, the principal actors all believably embody their respective characters and are proficient singers and dancers. Michael J. Berry, as lovable sidekick/noble steed Patsy, and aptly named Arthur Rowan as King Arthur, play well off each other and their back and forth provides many laughs. And it must be noted that Berry is a riot on the coconuts that provide the beloved stand-in for a galloping horse.

Though Spamalot does not feel quite as fresh as when it made its' 2005 debut, the Britney Spears reference comes to mind, the laughs hold up and the music leaves the audience humming on their way out of the theater.

1 comment:

  1. Am I the only person around who didn't care for Spamalot?