Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Holy Grail of Musical Comedy? Not Quite.

Shubert Theatre - Chicago
@@@ (out of @@@@@)

As a World Premiere musical based on "Monty Python and Holy Grail," headed straight to Broadway (with a big advance sale and hype as "the next Producers"), created by Python's Eric Idle, starring David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry & Hank Azaria and directed by Mike Nichols, Spamalot promised to be the clear highlight of the current Broadway in Chicago season. I went in with high expectations, and perhaps as a result, left somewhat disappointed. The show was certainly watchable, enjoyable and even hilarious at parts. And with no point of reference in terms of comparisons with other musicals, it's easy to see how many will think "it was awesome" as one audience member commented. But compared to musicals I thought were awesome, this one clearly wasn't. For unlike The Producers and Hairspray which enhanced their classic movie sources with equally brilliant music, lyrics, staging, etc., most of Spamalot's humor, and overall appeal, came directly from the movie, while the music, staging, etc. was nothing particularly wonderful. It was like watching the movie onstage with music, rather than a genuinely inventive musical with movie origins. And when it attempted to be newly zany, it seemed rather derivative of The Producers. Curry and Azaria were good; Pierce wasn't particularly distinctive. All in all worth seeing just for "the event" and the all-star cast, without which it would be even worse, but certainly not a truly magestic show. I have more global comments on the state of musicals in general, but I'll take that up another day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you have the chutzpah to pay to see a musical named 'Spamalot' while knowing the origination of such, you are going to like, if not love, it. Following in the Monty Python tradition it is definately creatively humorous. While quite often crass, vulgar and extensively uses the nonsequitor, it works well. Yet it maintains it's innocent zaniness that made Monty famous in the first place. Headed to Broadway? You bet, but more so because it pushes the right buttons... a cast with clout, changing enough to keep the story refreshing yet familiar, pays necessary homage to the homosexual crowd, with good humor makes jabs at the ethnicity of the entertainment industry, and appeals to baby boomers. If you would like a quirky and spirited ride, this is for you. It's headed to Broadway for a solid run. t