The cast of the National Tour of Monty Python's Spamalot.

MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT: A New Musical lovingly Ripped Off From The Motion Picture “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle, Music by John Du Prez & Eric Idle. Directed by Mike Nichols. Choreography by Casey Nicholaw. Golden Gate Theatre, corner of Golden Gate and Taylor, San Francisco, CA. (415) 512 7770 or May 27 – June 21, 2009


It would probably enhance your enjoyment knowing the King Arthur legend and are a devotee British humor. However, none of that is necessary to be thoroughly entertained by the musical Spamalot that opened last night at the Golden Gate Theatre throwing the audience into hysterical laughter. In the late 1960s and early 1970s a group six undergraduates from Cambridge, Oxford and the U.S. assembled an irreverent comedy show called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” that became a sensational TV hit in Great Britain. American PBS stations imported the show instantly garnering devoted audiences. Monty Python's Spamalot is a musical comedy "lovingly ripped off from" the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Never having seen a Monty Python TV show or movie, this article is a virginal approach without bias. The show is absolutely amazing with superb actors, to die for writing, astounding production numbers, fantastic sets/ projections/lighting and a directorial marvel. The Broadway production won the Tony Award for best Musical in 2005. To prevent competition with the Las Vegas run of the show, the trip by the National Tour to San Francisco was delayed. Now that it is here, it is certain to have an extended run.

The story is based on the legend of Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail (The Cup of Christ), yet the opening number takes place in Finland with bright, comedic and foolish production number “Fisch Schlapping” until the erstwhile narrator gets the story back on track. It is the time of the plague, time to pick up the bodies even when Not Dead Fred insists in song “I Am Not Dead Yet!” King Arthur (John O'Hurley) who has been given the sword Ex Caliber by The Lady of the Lake (Merle Dandridge) with mandate from God (Voice of John Cleese) appears on an imaginary horse using half coconut shells making the clip-clop sounds of hoofs. His diminutive trusty manservant Patsy (Jeff Dumas) accompanies him.

Arthur gathers a motley group of men eventually taking them to Camelot becoming Knights of the Round Table. Their escapades and encounters, staged with expert precision, are side-splitting silly, often ribald and accompanied by an ensemble that change into multi-varied costumes, dance up a storm and sing lyrics satirizing Broadway musicals. Would you believe a battle with Parisian Can-Girls, a French fort protected by ingenious defenders with a barrage of cows and odiferous non-lethal human gas? Then picture the protector of the Holy Grail as a vicious bunny rabbit that actually bites the head off one who dares approach. And then there are the inhabitants of Very Expensive Forest that includes a man on stilts and a Black Knight that actually loses all of his limbs in a duel with Sir Robin (Mathew Greer).

It goes on and on with the final coup de graces a series of production numbers making a mockery of Broadway as they reflect that their show will never make in to Broadway “if it doesn’t have any Jews!” The musical numbers are reminiscent of Lloyd Webber, Rogers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim, however the lyrics are pure Eric Idle. Merle Dandridge adds a touch of class with her sexy booming voice and gorgeous body. There isn’t a single weak character and I have been told they uphold the tradition of the original Monty Python cast. At the end there is short segment with audience participation before the final inspirational medley of “Find Your Grail.”

Running time under 2 hours with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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