Monty Python's "Spamalot" is "lovingly ripped off" from the infamous film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." If you have somehow never seen this film, you really should get on that. If you breathe air, then you've seen the film and might be wondering why on earth someone would make a musical out of it. Eric Idle, one of the original Pythons, thought it was a good idea and, in fact, it is a great idea. It is a pandering ridiculous display of silliness and it is glorious. The world needs more ways to enjoy Tim the Enchanter, killer bunnies, rude French knights, and the Knights Who Say Ni and so, my friends, here it is.
Along with a fully realized version of Prince Herbert's "He's Going to Tell," the cherished "Camelot" tap dance routine from the film, and the Python favorite "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," Spamalot's catchy score skewers musical theatre, a la "The Producers." Great songs such as the power ballad "Song That Goes Like This," "I Am Not Dead Yet," and "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" ("if you don't have any Jews" is the rest of that lyric) are peppered throughout the very funny book, which embellishes the source material without exploiting it. The 5th Avenue's production adds an extra dollop of happiness to every beloved gag for an evening of hilarity, both familiar and new. 5th Ave newcomer and Director Josh Rhodes, whose credits include musical directing and choreographing on Broadway, has an intelligently light touch, allowing the actors the freedom to be silly and play. The result is a care-free evening of laughs and smart nose-tapping references.
The Broadway tour of "Spamalot" recreated the film's finest moments, but you can do that in your own living room. The 5th Ave's production does an excellent job paying homage without precisely mimicking the film, which is impressive and refreshing. The ensemble is full of homegrown Seattle talent who really bring it, perfectly supporting the leads, most of whom have Broadway creds. As a group, the prize definitely goes to Robin's freakishly happy and renaissancey minstrels, lead by Joshua Carter (who also brings down the house as the fragile and romantic Prince Herbert, or Alice, if you ask his father). Sarah Rose Davis (who will star as Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl" at Village this spring) also stands out, managing to turn a thankless chorus girl job into a fun cameo with every entrance. Heath Saunders' infectious smile during his performances in a variety of roles bursts at the seams with absurd joy.
Allen Fitzpatrick really could not have been more perfectly cast as King Arthur. The stern actor fills the role of the beleaguered straight man with confidence and authority, deftly able to keep his dignity despite the utter imbeciles that surround him. Laura Griffith as the Lady of the Lake shows off some serious vocal pyrotechnics in her songs "Whatever Happened to My Part?" and "Find Your Grail," her glorious voice prettily soaring up to tinkle the jewels on the theater's dragon chandelier. In this production, the Lady of the Lake is played more subtly instead of an over-the-top diva dripping with attitude, which is charming, but doesn't quite pack the same punch. You get the feeling that the Lady is a really nice person who just would like to point out, sorry, that she hasn't been on stage in awhile.
Matt Owen, Dane Stokinger Cook, and Louis Hobson star as the cowardly Sir Robin, the homicidally brave Sir Lancelot, and political-peasant-turned-flaxen-hunk Sir Gallahad, but all work double or triple time playing a multitude of characters from the swallow-obsessed castle guards and black knights to music-hating father-of-the-grooms and leader of the Knights Who Say Ni. All three actors can be hard to spot as they expertly melt into the different roles.
There are about 350,000 costume changes in this show and about twice as many sequins and rhinestones (kudos to Set and Costume Designer Tim Hatley, especially for the Lady's magnificent gowns), so The 5th's backstage probably looks like a Vegas Showgirl Convention exploded at the end of every show. Totally worth it.
One very serious fault with the book is that it does sadly skip over Sir Bedevere's marvelous witch trial. Sir Bedevere, played by Richard Gray, gets the short end of the stick on that one. But the bottom line is The 5th's "Spamalot" is well worth the trip, you sons of a silly person. Now get thee to the theatre or I shall taunt you a second