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Working as a near-perfect translation of the humor of Monty Python, I can honestly say that I have never laughed at a play as hard as I laughed at Spamalot. As the program indicates, this is a “new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.” That description doesn’t do the production justice. It is really a “rip-off” of all things Monty Python, a satire on Broadway musicals, and just two hours of pure randomness thrown at you with a barely-there story to get from one set-piece to the next.
Before the play even began, it was apparent that this was going to be an unusual night. Looking through the program, I noticed that where the information about Spamalot would normally begin, they have a program for a (fictional) Finnish play called “Finns Ain’t What They Used to Be.” This mock program is so insanely silly and over-the-top, it sets the tone perfectly for what is to come.
This style of humor is a trademark of the Monty Python brand, and many of their best bits are included. There are appearances by the Knights Who Say Ni, the killer rabbit, and much more. If you’re not already familiar with the source material, the randomness of the whole thing could prove overwhelming. However, for the fans, it is a thrill seeing these iconic moments recreated on stage.
As should be pretty apparent, plot doesn’t matter in this play. The first act king of sets up a potential story, but by act two, any pretense of a cohesive narrative are tossed aside. Once we get to know our core cast (brilliantly led by John O’Hurley as King Arthur), anything goes. They constantly break the fourth wall, even bringing an audience member up on stage at one point. There are random tangents involving modern pop culture, Las Vegas, etc., but most brilliant are the dissections of the entire concept of musical theatre.
For example, there is a song called “The Song That Goes Like This.” This number consists of two people singing about the song that they are singing. They are literally analyzing the song as it is being sung. It is a fantastically pointless showstopper that serves no function whatsoever beyond pure entertainment.
That really is the point of this whole thing. Everybody in the production seems willing to do anything for a laugh. And they get them continuously. The dialogue is so rapid-paced that you really have to pay close attention to catch it all. On top of the great dialogue, there is also the terrific music. It is all extremely catchy, and while many of the songs will be familiar to fans of Monty Python, there is also a great deal of new material.
Considering the source material, the production design looks way better than I would have expected. As a whole, Monty Python films were very cheap looking. That was part of the appeal and a lot of the humor derived from this. However, Spamalot looks very expensive. The sets work perfectly for the material, creating a cartoonish environment on a very large scale. The costuming, lighting, etc. are all top-of-the-line as well.
This is the last stop on Spamalot’s national tour. It is only running through October 18, and is definitely worth seeing before it’s gone. I am a huge fan of Monty Python, and as such, went in with extremely high expectations. Those expectations were exceeded in every way. It would be impossible to see this production and not have a great time. This is a real crowd-please, and one that shouldn’t be missed.
Tickets are available at OCPAC.org, at the Center’s Box Office or by calling (714) 556-2787.