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theater review: And Your Father Smelt of Elderberries!

Monty Python...s ...Grail... Takes on Outrageous Musical Form in ...SPAMALOT...

By Nivair Gabriel

Monty Python’s SPAMALOT

Broadway in Boston Series

The Colonial Theatre

March 7 - April 15, 2006

Would you believe that Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin all attended either Cambridge or Oxford?

The Monty Pythons have quite an impressive pedigree. Their true genius, however, lies in their ability to find fun in every aspect of life — a skill most overworked university students sorely need, and one that is exemplified in this new musical “lovingly ripped off” from the motion picture “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Indeed, “Dik Od Triaanenen Fol (Finns Ain’t What They Used To Be)” is a near-perfect d se of p re enterta nment. All f the m še are really quite l vely, with their l ng pretty h rnš and delightful plumage.

(Please excuse the last paragraph. A new writer has been found. — Eds.)

If you’ve seen the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” don’t think that there’s nothing new for you here. Sure, the French taunters, Black Knight, killer rabbit, Tim the enchanter, and the Knights of Ni all make an appearance, as well as many other familiar and beloved characters. Be prepared, though, to meet the Lady of the Lake (and her Laker Girls), and to make some startling new discoveries about Sir Lancelot (you may sing along, of course).

Most notable of the new musical characters is Sir Not Appearing In This Show (Gavin Lodge), whose nuanced performance and deep, resounding singing voice reminds me of the g d ld dayš in Finland with my m še, Benk k .

(Again, excuse us. Back to the review. — Eds.)

Re-adapting “Grail” to fit into a Broadway musical is at first an odd and daunting concept. The song “I Am Not Dead Yet,” about an unfortunate man thrown into a pile of lifeless bodies by his companion, goes on long enough to completely kill the joke, revive it again, and then flog it to death once more.

In spite of this mishap, however, the rest of the show demonstrates that a musical just may be the best way to present the Pythons’ comedy. Its ridiculous nature enables “SPAMALOT” to pull out all the dramatic stops and do every wild thing an audience has ever wished for: completely coat costumes in glitter, shoot confetti from the sides of the theater, flash strobe lights, mock other Broadway musicals, hang people on wires, explode fake chandeliers onstage, and the best audience participation stunt ever — to find out, you’ll just have to see it.

Impressive special effects notwithstanding, the performers clearly have the time of their lives with their roles. Pia Glenn raised the bar, achieving at once humor, grace, and glamour as the sonorous Lady of the Lake. The powerful beauty of her voice reminds the audience that they really are watching a Broadway musical; silly though it is, the talent of the actors is no less commendable. It’s a shame that Bradley Dean’s Sir Galahad — and his outrageously sparkling smile — didn’t have a larger role, but Dean had two more chances to shine as the Black Knight and as Prince Herbert’s frustrated father. Michael Siberry (King Arthur), Jeff Dumas (Patsy), and Tom Deckman (Prince Herbert) are perfect as well, bringing the spirit and personality of the film to the stage with seemingly no trouble at all.

The rush to be faithful to “Grail”’s brilliance, however, does present some obstacles for a musical. Though the costumes of the leads are easily recognizable for fans of the film, they’re too awkward for any complicated dancing. The creation of classic Broadway music, too, is a challenge, and John de Prez and Eric Idle lacked that Broadway sparkle during its creation. A few of the songs appeared to be part of a struggle to give the show credibility as a musical and not just a farce, when in fact the purely comedic numbers were far better. There were a few catchy and enjoyable tunes, but most of the real gems, like “Brave Sir Robin,” were not new.

The pair did not shy from adding new hilarity in the form of music, though, so all was not lost. Direct conversation between the actors and the orchestra pit enhance several scenes in the musical in a way that was never possible in film. One new creation, “You Won’t Succeed in Broadway,” is at once unforgettable, hilarious, and offensive: perfect for Monty Python, and appropriate for a dancing act in a comedy show.

In no way is this a traditional musical, but you don’t have to be a Pythonophile already to love it. Though the audience cheered as soon as they recognized favorite scenes, “SPAMALOT” offers a more polished and cohesive form of “Grail” for new and old viewers alike. Make sure you get a ticket, but try not to get hit by a flying French cow on your way to the Colonial Theatre.