June 25, 2008

‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ is Hilarious

By Mark Lowry, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Jun. 25--FORT WORTH -- One reason that the comedy geniuses of Monty Python were so successful is that no matter who they made fun of, they showed a modicum of respect for the lampooned subject.

Oh, who are we kidding? Sometimes, they were out for blood, the kind that's best drawn by excessively silly satire.

And it pretty much always worked.

So it makes sense that their first major venture into the world of musical theater -- Monty Python's Spamalot, the tour of which opened at Bass Hall on Tuesday -- would affectionately ridicule Broadway and all its cliches. Of course, it wouldn't be Python if that didn't include more than a few "Did they just say that?" lines.

Spamalot, written and composed by Eric Idle (John Du Prez helped with the score, mostly a parody pastiche of show tunes) and directed by Mike Nichols, is, of course, taken from Python's best-known movie, 1975's Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Although many of the characters and scenes from the film appear in the musical, Spamalot is its own creature. No one can accuse it of lamely ripping off its cinematic counterpart. (Are you listening, Beauty and the Beast and The Wedding Singer?) It's a brilliant kind of silly, and if it doesn't make you laugh, well, then you probably just don't get the Python brand of humor (and there's nothing we can do about that, is there?).

The tour lives up to the Broadway hype.

Gary Beach (The Producers) takes the reins as King Arthur, with impeccable facial expressions and timing. He's outshone, though, by James Beaman as Sir Robin, Nigel Columbus as Sir Lancelot, Ben Davis as Sir Dennis Galahad and Brad Bradley as Patsy.

That is because they play multiple roles and do it so well that you'll have a hard time figuring out that the dancing-queen knight (uh, Lancelot) is the same actor who cracked you up as the French Taunter.

Esther Stilwell reigns as the Lady of the Lake (although it's not her fault she's not as dazzling as Sara Ramirez, who won a Tony for the role), and Christopher Sutton steals several scenes, most notably as the "I'm not dead" guy and Prince Herbert.

Ultimately, it's the Python parody machine that scores.

Monty Python's Spamalot 7:30 tonight and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday

Bass Hall, Fort Worth


817-332-2272 or 817-212-4280; www.casamanana.org

Be advised: Strong language, innuendo, slapstick violence

Runtime: Two hours, 15 minutes with one intermission

Best reason to go: The brilliant visual gags


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