Theater Review: “Spamalot” at the Pantages
“Always look on the bright side of life.” So goes the well-known mantra of Monty Python. Granted, this particular song actually comes from “The Life of Brian,” not “The Search for the Holy Grail,” the Python film from which “Spamalot” was “lovingly ripped off,” but things like facts have never really bothered the creators of Monty Python.
The musical, which plays through Sunday at the Pantages, is about King Arthur (Arthur Rowan) and his Knights of the Round Table on their quest for the Holy Grail. Well, sort of. With true Python panache, the story ventures off into the absurd more often than it stays in reality (though the question can be begged, is anything that happens in the world of Monty Python grounded in reality?). Four of the knights are introduced, Lancelot (Adam Grabau), Galahad (Jacob L. Smith), Robin (Kasidy Devlin), and Bedevere (Thomas DeMarcus), in addition to Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Play, who, as his name suggests, does not appear in the play. God (voiced by Eric Idle) commands Arthur to find the Holy Grail and he goes forth, with pratfalls along the way.
The play is funny, but it doesn’t quite hit it out of the park. Many of the jokes fall flat, and while the cast is talented, they generally lack the charisma required to sustain the life of some of the more extended jokes.
Exceptions to this are Smith as the politically knowledgable countryman-turned-knight, Galahad, and Brittany Woodrow as the Lady of the Lake. Woodrow’s clear soprano invigorates a familiar score (for those songs that are not from Python movies are stylistically similar to many other existing songs), and Smith displays real presence and clarity that also help bring the show to life.
The ensemble is clearly having fun performing the show, but there are many sloppy moments. While the dancing is all fine and good and well-executed, there is the sense that this show is perhaps too familiar to the performers. However, the evening did not pass without mishaps: crew members were often visible, and even unwittingly attracted attention in the wings, and some physical jokes were not fully executed. Sound problems also plagued the show, making it difficult to understand what was happening.
This is not to say that the show was terrible. “Spamalot” is, inherently, a pretty good show, and this production is amusing. Sadly, though, it does not live up to its potential.
(image via Scott Suchman)
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