Based on the 91-minute film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot was lengthened to two-and-a-half hours for its Broadway run, which at times made the show seem repetitive. By bringing it back to its original length for the Vegas version, the show now seems quick-witted and funny. Python fans can rejoice as the scenes they love from the movie (the French taunters, the Black Knight, Knights who say "Ni!") are still included in this production, and theater fans can enjoy the inside jokes that still litter the show.
However, these "inside" jokes are actually a little more open now, as most of the Broadway-centered cracks have been replaced with Vegas-specific foolery. While the inside jokes seem tired and overused on Broadway, in Vegas the fact that they're cheesy and obvious works simply because Vegas is not a city known for its subtlety. Under the Tony Award-winning direction of Mike Nichols, the show moves beautifully. While some scenes were cut, almost every song by original Python Eric Idle and John DuPrez were left intact, and it's with these that the cast really gets to shine.
John O'Hurley is a wonderful King Arthur. He's commanding and aristocratic, yet there's a wink behind his performance that is never condescending; more that he is truly enjoying himself and wants the audience to as well. He possesses a lovely singing voice that rarely gets to shine, but is a treat when it does.
For a voice that blasts the stage with light, Nikki Crawford as the Lady of the Lake is, quite simply, amazing. She is able to deftly jump from ballad to jazz to big-belt with a powerful voice that causes the audience to break out in spontaneous applause repeatedly. Crawford plays her like a Vegas lounge singer who has finally made it, and is determined to stay a success, giving the character some legitimacy to what is otherwise an awkward plot addition. She steals the show repeatedly, and wields a comedic timing that is a true asset to the Python legacy.
Harry Bouvy, J. Anthony Crane, Edward Staudenmayer, and Randal Keith round out the Knights of the Round Table nicely; each actor is wonderfully talented and brings something new and enjoyable to their roles. But the show's two scene stealers are Justin Brill as Arthur's devoted servant Patsy, and Steven Strafford, as Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert. Brill's soulful eyes act as the audience's commentary and his "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is a joyful moment of stagecraft. Strafford is hilarious as Fred and his Prince Herbert caused one audience member near me to laugh to the point of an actual knee-slap.
Rounding out this cast of talented professionals is an ensemble of wonderful dancers. They give Spamalot the Vegas glitz that seemed trite and overdone in New York, but works perfectly here. After all, what else is the Vegas audience looking for but tall, leggy women supported by buff, springy men in neon codpieces?
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