MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, directed by Mike Nichols. Presented by David & Ed Mirvish at the Canon Theatre (244 Victoria). To September 10. $26-$110. 416-872-1212. See Continuing, page 76. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Spamalot, like the Hormel food product featured in the Python sketch, scrounges scraps to create a production that's both a spoof on musical theatre and a collection of Python tunes and gags drawn heavily from the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
The Python-like product is cleverly presented. Writer Eric Idle knows what the audience hungers for and shovels it into its collective maw: Patsy ( Jeff Dumas ), King Arthur's ( Michael Siberry ) sidekick, even revives Idle's own Bright Side Of Life at the top of the second act, which transitions to a scene with the Knights of Ni. The audience, delighted, howls.
The audience wasn't quite ready for Idle's original, saucy song You Won't Succeed On Broadway, which follows shortly afterwards. In it, Sir Robin ( David Turner ), tries to convince Arthur that the Holy Grail can be found on Broadway but that they won't "make it" if they don't find some Jewish people to join the cast.
Clever lyrics, dancing shiksas, a chorus straight out of Fiddler On The Roof and a huge, glittering Star of David are met with the most hesitant applause of the night even though the number is the most in keeping with the satirical Python spirit.
Idle distracts from this mild trespass into blacker comic territory with plenty of sparkly showtunes, many delivered by the Lady of the Lake ( Pia Glenn ), who whinges in key about not having a larger part to play.
Among a host of good performers, Rick Holmes stands out as Sir Lancelot and the French Taunter. He has huge shoes to fill: his parts were originated by John Cleese in the film and Hank Azaria on Broadway. Like Idle with Spamalot as a whole, he gets the job done by giving the audience lots of what they want. He puts his own stamp on his characters, delighting not for what you expect him to be, but for what he is: memorable summer entertainment.