Despite the glitz, you’ll find it hard to cheer for this Monty Python hybrid.
MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT with book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Idle, directed by Mike Nichols (Mirvish). At the Canon Theatre (244 Victoria). To October 5. $26-$110. 416-872-1212. See Continuing. Rating: NN
Back in 1975, Monty Python and The Holy Grail sent up bombastic historical pictures with its silly, irreverent, low-budget take on the Arthurian legends, complete with postmodern winks about moviemaking on a shoestring.
Three decades later, it's been turned into a cash cow that draws on baby boomer nostalgia and siphons their wallets, all in an attempt to send up another medium: musical theatre. Monty Python's Spamalot sometimes succeeds - especially in the clever first act, where its riffs on over-the-top musicals hit their spotlit marks.
But it's hard to take this touring version of the Broadway hit seriously. Its production values are as ostentatious as the shows it's spoofing, its hit-and-miss jokes as subtle as whoopee cushions.
King Arthur (Jonathan Hadary) and his motley crew of knights ride through forests and encounter everything from rude French guards to evil rabbits in their quest for the fabled Holy Grail. What they realize (cue cheesy power ballad) is that they each have their own inner Grail to discover.
It's hard to sum up a plot that includes show-stopping (not in the good way) numbers about how a Broadway show can't succeed without Jews, and a character who discovers his inner gay chorus boy. The polite smattering of applause after each of these numbers speaks volumes.
Even the digs at the musical genre get limp after a while. The Drowsy Chaperone's spoofs were cleverer, especially musically. Most of the audience gets the allusion to Phantom Of The Opera - and the requisite Barenaked Ladies joke - but who catches the reference to Sondheim's Company?
Speaking of company, the show boasts a strong one. Hadary gallops along using his plummiest Paul Scofield accent, Esther Stilwell steals her scenes as a headturning diva, and, in a smaller ensemble role, Christopher Sutton - a dead ringer for co-creator Eric Idle - adds the right whimsy to his series of fops.