When I heard that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was being made into a Broadway musical, I thought that was a great idea. Sort of. One must venture cautiously when tampering with things that aqcuire a cult-like following. Even my dad, overly critical fellow that he is when it comes to filtering his entertainment choices, fondly recalls his own hysterical laughter when he first saw King Arthur galloping, sans noble steed, over hill and dale accompanied by a man pounding together coconuts. I mean what could there not be to love?
Last night, my main squeeze treated me to Spamalot. As lines from the movie are quotidian for us we weren't sure what to expect.
The audience was composed primarily of two groups: The uninitiated, who were simply present as die-hard theater goers with season passes to everything, and the die-hard devotees of the film with their prop coconuts and killer bunny hand puppets on hand. Although a fan, I am hardly die-hard anything, so by default it was interesting to hear distinct portions of the audience react to different things.
For those in the know, the biggest obstacle this show has is hearing the original dialogue delievered by a voice you aren't used to. Everyone who loves the film knows that it's not just the ridiculous nature of the dialogue, but the idiosyncratic delivery that catches your ear. It's like a foreigner mispronouncing a word. Those who are fluent can't help but want to correct. Homage is good, I am sure, but this seems a different beast.
So anytime a signature phrase or scene was reenacted onstage, it was simply not funny. The Knights who say Ni were not as amusingly threatening. Brother Maynard reciting the instructions for sacred artillery? "...then lobbeth thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it. Amen." High-larious. But here, it had all the character of a bored sunday school teacher.
The best bits often were when it deviated and embraced, even parodied, it's Broadway style theatrics. Additions such as a Lady of the Lake diva with her "Laker Girls" made for a show that was completely unrecognizable as a Python adaptation. I'm used to the film so much that it was jarring for me, but probably perfectly acceptable as campy show. The quest for the grail, in a show stopping number, becomes the quest to make it big on Broadway "You can't be successful on Broadway without any Jews." Which, now that I think about it, is probably a Pythonesque joke where the play is lampooning itself, as the movie skewered its attributes of being a feature film.
It was all a different flavor of silly and maybe just tad too hokey for my taste. Perhaps it just wasn't dirty enough. Not in the perverted way, but as in, "Where is all the mud, filth and spurting appendages?" It was all clean bright and shiny castles and expensive storybook forest trees with all the shit cleaned off. Hm, okay, maybe a little in the perveted way. There were no spankings to be found either.
All of this is not to say that I didn't have a good time. It wasn't ever boring, just more "The Producers" than "Python". But then, not being a veteran of what to actually expect from a nationally touring, professional musical it was a treat just to go. I got a good chuckle out of it. Truthfully, the whole Broadway scene is really a little bit weird to me. (Uh-huh, you say, but you dig strange British men who dress in drag...) Maybe I'm just not the all-singing, all-dancing gay on the avenue...
Oh, who am I kidding. I'm just jealous of people who can get on a stage without throwing up. The tiny black woman in my brain just smacked me upside the lobe and gave me some major head swivel.