And now for something that wins the Tony for Best Musical
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Spamalot" is explicitly proud of the fact that it is lovingly "ripped off" from the classic film comedy "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Directed by Mike Nichols, the show has a book by Python's Eric Idle and a whole bunch of new sons by Idle and John Du Prez. Now that the production has won the Tony Award for Best Musical for 2004-2005, we can only imagine what will happen when "The Life of Brian" or "The Meaning of Life" are transported to the stage and another nail is driving in the coffin of Western civilization. All I know is that the first time I saw "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" I never laughed so hard during opening credits in my life (even with three of us sitting in two seats in the front of a Volkswagen rabbit--appropriate, huh?), and they do not have opening credits in Broadway musicals so I think the film still comes out ahead on that score.
"Spamalot" looks again at the legendary tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, who dance when ere they're able, they do routines and chorus scenes, with footwork impeccable. Throw into the mix French people, a cow, a killer rabbit, and the Holy Grail and wackiness ensues. The cast is headed by Tim Curry as King Arthur, David Hyde-Pierce as Sir Robin, and Hank Azaria as Sir Lancelot. Then there is Michael McGrath as Patsy (and a myriad of other roles), Steve Rosen as Sir Bedevere, Sara Rameriez as the Lady of the Lake, and Christopher Seibert as Sir Dennis Galahad, the Black Knight and Prince Herbert's Father (the idea is keep true to the spirit of Monty Python and have a core cast do most of the nonsense and then bring in chorus girls to distract audiences from the inept dancing).
There were a few songs from the motion picture that are, of course, found in the musical: "Monks Chant," "Knights of the Round Table," and "Brave Sir Robin" ("Bring Out Your Dead" and "Run Away" were not exactly songs then, but they are now). Idle knows his most famous song is "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from "The Life of Brian," and he has no shame in having it pop up twice in this show. But I think the one that will get stuck in your head and drive you to distraction will be "The Song That Goes Like This." I was hoping they would do that one at the Tony Awards and exorcise it from my fevered brain, but they did "Find Your Grail," which is a better choice in terms of a production number that can feature the entire cast and a lot peppier than "I'm All Alone." Then again, I am surprised they did not do "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," with its explanation for what you need to have a hit on the Great White Way (count the levels of political incorrectness). But then I am back to listening to the rest of the songs and by the time we get to "Twice in Every Show" my brain is heating up again.
My favorite part of the "Holy Grail" remains the lesson in anarcho-syndicated commune living between King Arthur and the "Old Woman," and the reading from the Book of Armaments, Chapter 2, Verses 9-21, regarding the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. There are the Historian's introductions to both acts, but no other spoken comedy because they are working in as many songs as they can, almost two dozen by the final tally, including reprises and false starts. These are not great songs but they are great fun, and there are several that you will find yourself singing along with after a while and let me tell you that trying to sing both parts in "The Song That Goes Like This" is more difficult than you might think. Do you think there will ever be a touring company of "Spamalot"? We are still waiting for "Wicked" out here in the sticks, so this album and the DVD of "Holy Grail" might be all we have to hold ourselves over for the foreseeable future."
And now for something completely different...IT'S...
M. G ORELL | RANDOLPH, MA USA | 07/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT
When I first bought this CD, I thought that the jokes were "amused smile" funny, not "ha-ha" funny. Then I saw the show on 4th of July weekend and it's a miracle that I left with my pants still dry. That's how funny the show itself is.
And now a critical analysis of this 'ere CD.
1. Tuning: Not in the show but still funny. Is that Eric Idle talking?
2. Overture: Very nice.
3. Historian's Introduction: Very funny, very Pythonesque in its offhand remarks (To the North, the Anglo-Saxons, to the South, the French, to the East, nothing but Celts and some people from Scotland.)
4. Finland: In reality, a song written many years ago by the Pythons. The closest the show's gonna get to the Swedish subtitles gag. Missing from this track is the "fish slap" section. Oh, well, gotta get to the singing, right?
5. I Am Not Yet Dead: A lovely musicalization of the classic scene from the movie starting off with the Latin chant and the banging of the heads.
6. Come With Me: A perfect introduction to the show's leading lady, Sara Ramirez, who has what I consider the biggest kick-ass voice on Broadway. I haven't heard a belter like that before in my life. More on her later.
7. The Laker Girls Cheer: Eh. It's pretty good.
8. The Song That Goes Like This: An excellent, hilarious send up of the cheesy pop love duets that exist in musicals today, particularly those of Andrew Lloyd Webber. In the show, this is a spoof of "Phantom" complete with the laker girls as the candelabra statues, a boat, and a chandelier that breaks at the end.
9. He Is Not Dead Yet (Playoff): Actually occurs at the end of "I Am Not Dead Yet". Yay, they snuck in a bit from the Lumberjack Song.
10. All For One: The cheesy buddy ballad. Very good. In the show, Sir Not Appearing in this Show is a representation of Don Quixote. So it's obvious why he's not appearing in this show. 'Cause he's in the wrong one.
11. Knights of the Round Table/The Song that Goes Like This (reprise): One of my favorite songs combined with another song that goes like this. Incidentally, some lines in "Knights of the Round Table" were part of the original lyrics for the song. The reprise of "The Song That Goes Like This" is an excellent spoof of the cheesy cabaret lounge number in musicals complete with a nun and monk doing a pas de deux. Ramirez exhibits an excellent blend of Merman, Minelli, and Streisand, and maybe a little Eder (as in Linda).
12. Find Your Grail: A spoof of the cheesy inspirational pop ballads present in musicals today complete with corny vocal ad-libs (that's what I call them.)
13. Run Away: This song was severely cut down when I saw it on Broadway. All that's left is the French Taunter's verse, a jazz section replacing the Can-Can dance, and the last verse which was brought down several octaves. It was not a settling end of Act 1 for me. Pity, I liked the song. There's even an Eponine look-a-like at one point. The girl who was dressed up like her looked like Idina Menzel (obviously it wasn't)
14. The Intermission: Delivered like a true Gumby. Not in the show.
15. Historian's Introduction: Not as funny.
16. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: a send up of the old fashioned cheer up eternal optimist ballads even if it was a song that was written back in the 70s for Life of Brian, another great Python film.
17. Brave Sir Robin: Another hilarious song from the film. They even managed to sing the last line which is cut off by Eric Idle in the movie. There are many reprises of the song as well.
18. You Won't Succeed on Broadway: A send up of the ol' showbiz songs (There's No Business...Another Op'nin'...) complete with a Fiddler on the Roof parody.
19. Diva's Lament: Spoofs the part of the show where the leading lady comes on totally randomly after having diddly squat to do for half of Act Two. Sara Ramirez blew me out of the water. Just to warn anyone who hasn't seen the show, they changed the lyric "I've no Grammys, no rewards/I've no Tony Awards" to "My Tony Awards/Won't keep me out of Betty Ford's" 'cause Sara Ramirez did win the Tony for her part.
20. Where Are You: the cliched searching for love ballad. At one point in the scene, Herbert sings "And another hundred people just contracted the plague". Bet you can guess what that's from.
21. His Name Is Lancelot: Not spoofing any particular type of song in a Broadway show but spoofing The Boy From Oz definitely.
22. I'm All Alone: Another spoof. Loneliness ballad obviously. Very hilarious.
23. Twice In Every Show: A spoof of the rousing reprises of the cheesy love ballads complete with some cliched dialogue.
24. The Finale: A spoof of how the cheesy inspirational pop number is spoofed through different forms then going into pop at the end. Very rousing.
25. Always Look On the Bright Side of Life: Maybe not a spoof of how they try to get one last song stuck in your head before you leave the theatre but good nonetheless.
Tim Curry: Very hilarious. Excellent timing. Love the singing.
Sara Ramirez: What a voice! Not even Idina Menzel can belt one out like that.
Christian Borle: Very nice voice.
Christopher Seiber: Saw him in Into the Woods. Very good voice as well.
Hank Azaria: Not the best singer in the world but still funny. Did not see him when I saw the show. Stupid Huff.
David Hyde Pierce: He looked like the type with a hidden singing voice. It's a very good one.
Michael McGrath: Very good voice. He's got the ol' crooner voice which is perfect for Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
Steve Rosen: Must have an excellent voice. Just doesn't have a very good time to shine with it. Does do a great imitation of Terry Jones though.
All in all, it's great music but an even better show with some phenomenal talent. There are two songs left off the CD; King Arthur's song (which is really the theme sung in the Laker Girls' Cheer) and The Holy Grail which is sung after the Holy Grail is found in Row C Seat 101 and they bring up the "peasant" sitting in the seat. There's a lyric involving the person's name (at the show I saw, his name was Harvey Lucas) which obviously changes and would be difficult to record unless you sang, "Please insert name here".
"Eric Idle could have a promising career as a Broadway show writer. Spamalot is true to Python, with an edge to its modern satire. When I first heard that Spamalot was in the works, I thought someone was going to ruin an excellent set of memories, (like the movie Sgt. Pepper did to the Beatles), I couldn't have been more wrong. There were some modifications of the original story so it could be performed on stage, but the spirit is true. As an added bonus, the performers have excellent singing voices so the music is entertaining in its own right."
The 2005 Tony Winner for Best musical
Mark Andrew Lawrence | Toronto | 06/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, it is all terribly silly just as any Python fan would wish. It
also makes for a fun original cast album where you can pretty much
follow the action without reading a synopsis. A god thing too for
Decca has not included one in the booklet! Oh there are plenty of
colour pictures, all the lyrics and endless credits. (Does the home
listener really need to know who the show's press rep is???) But
you'll look in vain for a synopsis.Nevertheless the disc spins merrily along for 52 minutes zipping
form one lunacy to another, pausing for a couple of extended numbers
("Knights of the Round table"; "Always Look on the Bright Side of
Life" and the "Diva's Lament") but most or the rest are so short the
end before they barely get started!None of the men offer truly spectacular voices, which is fine since
the style of Monty Python calls character voices, however the biggest
voice belongs to the wonderful Sara Ramirez as The Lady of the Lake.
Your knowledge of traditional musicals will help you understand some
of the jokes but there are plenty of other pop culture references
(even Britney Spears gets mentioned!)SPAMALOT, like quite a number of shows the past few seasons, refuses
to take itself or anything else seriously. But the music here, unlike
THE PRODUCERS, is purposely derivative and therefore little of it
stays with you after the show ends. The most memorable tune
is "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and that one has been
kicking around since THE LIFE OF BRIAN came out in 1979. Still that
hasn't prevented SPAMALOT from becoming the biggest hit on Broadway
this season, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future."
This is the Soundtrack That Goes Like This: Positively Brill
Greg Robertson | Historic Quincy, MA | 03/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you've seen Monty Python's SPAMALOT, you'll love this Original Cast Recording because hearing every song, line, and "Oh my!" will cause you to either break into uncontrollable laughter all over again or, at the very least, smile inappropriately among strangers.
If you've never seen SPAMALOT, but saw "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" 35 times, you'll love this because most of the songs refer directly to those "Grail" scenes that are forever burned into your brain, including John Cleese and Graham Chapman's "Knights of the Round Table." Added to that are favorites from other classic Python sketches and films, like Eric Idle's "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" and Michael Palin's "Finland," plus several original songs by Idle making fun of typical Broadway musicals, like "The Song That Goes Like This" and "I'm All Alone."
If, on the other hand, you've never seen SPAMALOT, "Monty Python and The Holy Grail," or other Python shows...um...congratulations on escaping from that cave, I guess. I would still encourage you to buy this CD, if only to enhance your sense of humor.
Other reasons to buy the SPAMALOT cast recording? A hilarious spoof of Barry Manilow-style songs, an Intermission interlude worthy of a Terry Gilliam cartoon, and tremendous performances by David Hyde Pierce, Hank Azaria, Chris Seiber, and others, including the best role Tim Curry has had since "Rocky Horror Picture Show."