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Theatre Review (LA and On Tour): Monty Python’s Spamalot

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Just mention Monty Python and fans light up like a Christmas bulb. Others get a kind of glazed-over look. Fans will be delighted that the 2009 national tour of Monty Python's Spamalot is making headlines with the comedy that won three Tony awards for the hilarious Broadway show.

Nothing from the Broadway production is missing in this L. A. production. The Lady of the Lake and the Laker Girls amuse as usual. The Killer Rabbit is still one of the most anticipated acts in the play. And the Very Expensive Forest (pun intended) scene is hysterical.

Photo: Joan Marcus

Anyone unaware of the zaniness of this play probably hasn’t submerged himself in the humor of the Monty Python group, made up of Britain’s Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. So it may come as a shock to some that the play, about King Arthur and his search for the Holy Grail, makes little sense. That’s because it’s not supposed to. It’s a jigsaw puzzle of parodies, silly skits, and unimaginable characters. Even more unbelievable is that real professionals have no problem playing them.

Directed by the renowned Mike Nichols – who won a Tony for the show – and adapted from the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the play entertains with barely a moment to catch a breath. Currently in the lead roles are Christopher Gurr as King Arthur, Matthew Greer as the gallant Sir Lancelot, and standing tall among her male colleagues, the beautiful Merle Dandridge as Lady of the Lake. She’s an out-of-sorts accessory to the Knights, often appearing in stunning gowns and letting loose with an aria fit for Carnegie Hall. And when she sings complaining about her part, and the words of songs such as “The Song That Goes Like This” or “The Diva’s Lament” actually sink in, the audience responds with wild laughter.

Rounding out the full package of this delightful show are the book and lyrics by Eric Idle, the fitting music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle, and the amazing sets and costumes by Tim Hatley. Casey Nicholaw’s brilliant choreography offers a glimmer of Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse’s styles, so necessary for a show to be a real contender.

Monty Python's Spamalot will disappoint neither Monty Python fans nor newbies. Sometimes it sinks to the lowest common denominator of the laugh bucket, but patrons who see this show will be hard pressed not to leave humming "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

The show leaves Los Angeles September 6 and heads to San Diego, followed by San Jose, Tucson AZ, and Costa Mesa, CA. For a list of the tour cities, visit the show's website.

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