I saw Monty Python‘s Spamalot at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts here in Saint Paul last week.
When I was about eight years old, our Minnesota public television station, then known as KTCA, ran–and reran, many times–the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That’s how I was first introduced to British humor in general and Monty Python in particular. I was hooked. I watched the movie several times and hundreds of times since. I can practically recite the movie line for line. That’s how much of a Monty Python geek I am.
So I am a huge Monty Python fan but I was worried that I would fall asleep. Theaters, for a reason I cannot fathom, usually act as a sedative on me and put me to sleep. But only live theater does it. They don’t have that effect on me in movie theaters.
It’s weird. It could be a play that I love and I still just can’t seem to stay awake. Selective narcolepsy, I guess.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that I did not fall asleep during Spamalot.
That might have something to do with the fact that the musical was written by ex-Python, Eric Idle himself. I enjoyed Spamalot a great deal. It featured plenty of dialog taken directly from the movie that was funny for audience members who hadn’t seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail or hadn’t seen it many times. Those lines got plenty of laughs, so there were quite a few people who were relatively new to, if not Monty Python, then the movie.
The thing would have been simply interesting to those of us geeks who know the movie in and out if it were just the movie set to stage. Fortunately, there was plenty of original material to keep us Python geeks interested and amused.
The first of the two acts whizzed along, which is nice. The highlight, for me, was the song Find Your Grail, which was choreographed as if it were a Super Bowl halftime show, complete with people waving torches like Bic lighters at a concert and "Support Our Troops" signs.
Act II dragged a bit at the beginning.
The first new song of the second half was You Won’t Succeed On Broadway, which made the audience uncomfortable because, as the actors made clear, the reason they wouldn’t succeed is that they had no Jews. In true Monty Python fashion, it is an over-the-top number that closes with a giant, lighted, flashing Star of David descending from the ceiling. The song is used to set up a Catholic joke later in the show, which got a huge laugh.
The Veteran said it didn’t feel like Monty Python, and he’s right, it didn’t. But Monty Python is all about making fun of religion–all religions. I mean, The Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life are exactly that.
The reason for the song was because the Knights of the Round Table’s mission became a quest to get on Broadway, which seems to me a dubious and unnecessary choice used simply because it was a Broadway show, but there you have it.
The tie-in products included, as shown above, Spamalot-branded cans of Spam, which is particularly apt because the product is made in Minnesota.
Act II did pick up the pace, thankfully, and the show was over before I knew it. It was very good and I do recommend it.