Monty Python's Spamalot opened on Broadway in 2005 and won a slew of awards, including a Tony award for "Best Musical". The show is filled with infinite sight-gags, in jokes for Broadway and Python fans and is chock full of hum-able songs. (Did you know that the 1960 production of Camelot was not even nominated for Best Musical?...how strange.)
You don't have to be a Monty Python fan to enjoy Spamalot, which is playing at The Providence Performing Arts Center through April 17, 2011. The show's subtitle says that it is "lovingly ripped off" from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I will have to take Eric Idle's word on it, as I have never seen that Monty Python film, or any Monty Python film. No matter. There are enough in jokes about pop culture, Lez Miz, Phantom and Lady Gaga to make a Python neophyte feel like he is in on the joke; even if he doesn't quite understand why a carnivorous rabbit is so funny.
King Arthur (Steven McCoy) is on an over-acting quest for the Holy Grail. He and his long-suffering servant Patsy (Glenn Giron) are trolling the countryside and very expensive forest looking for knights to join the very round table.
The King is joined by a not-very-brave Sir Robin (Martin Glyer), a mama's boy version of Sir Galahad (Jacob L. Smith), and, of course, Lancelot (Adam Grabau), who in this telling, is queer for Prince Herbert (John Garry).
The heavily-armed Christians are watched over by the benevolent and big-voiced Lady of the Lake (Caroline Bowman).
Spamalot makes loving fun of Broadway musicals, while self-awarely using the same overwrought techniques it lampoons - to its own advantage. The Lady of the Lake and Arthur have a sly duet about a "The Song That Goes Like This" and that must appear in every successful [Andrew Lloyd Webber] show.
After a brief absence The Lady of The Lake returns (in a homage 'lovingly ripped off" from Cher) and addresses the audience directly to ask "whatever happened to my part", in 'Diva's Lament'. We know, even before she starts, that Caroline Bowman will nail the number, and she does. The song is, purposefully I think, the only number that requires a more than passable voice. The choreography is also intentionally familiar and rote, which keeps the attention on the comedy.
The show acknowledges that to be successful it must end with an uplifting marriage, and not the one between Lancelot and Herbert. A wedding between Arthur and The Lady of The Lake end the ribald evening.
Monty Python's Spamalot, plays at The Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) through April 17, 2011. Ticket prices range from $36 - $63 and can be purchased at the PPAC Box Office which is located at 220 Weybosset St., Providence, RI; by calling (401) 421-2787 or at www.ppacri.org.
Photo: The touring cast of Monty Python's Spamalot. Photo by Scott Suchman.