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Monty Python's Spamalot

This Tony-winning show remains amusing on tour, though only some of the cast members properly fill their predecessors' shoes. logo
Naomi Kakuk, Michael Siberry, and Amanda Kloots in
Monty Python's Spamalot
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
The big question regarding any touring production of a huge Broadway hit is how well it will play in Elsewhere, America without the original, name-brand stars. The prognosis for Monty Python's Spamalot, which began its national tour this month in Boston, looks good -- even if the self-referential script, with its showbiz in jokes, reads more like a variation on Forbidden Broadway than a page from the Python oeuvre. When all is said and done, the show's romping determination to amuse ensures that it will have legs.

The entire cast has huge shoes to fill, and only a few find their roles to be a perfect fit. Michael Siberry is warmly magisterial as King Arthur, his intonations easily as rotund and plummy as Tim Curry's -- and he also brings a touching vulnerability to the role. Bradley Dean is delightful as the vain Galahad, tossing his Fabio locks while flashing a male-model smile. (It's a pity that he's underemployed in Act II.) Tom Deckman habitually steals the show in a quintet of small roles: first as Not Dead Fred (his life force surging behind the macabre makeup), later as a minstrel insistently cataloguing a litany of gruesome tortures, and finally and definitively as Prince Herbert, he of the Giotto curls and transgendered yearnings.

And if there's one breakout performance, it's that of Pia Glenn as The Lady of the Lake. She may not be as magnificent as Sara Ramirez, who aced a Tony in the role, but she's over-the-top gorgeous and wields a killer voice capable of infinite colorations and utmost virtuosity. The ensemble members, including a couple of off-duty Rockettes, also deserve kudos for their skill and enthusiasm. Thanks to Tim Hatley's snazzy sets and costumes, and Casey Nicholaw's crisp and witty choreography, the Camelot scene -- set in a Vegas analog -- offers all the razzle-dazzle that a theatergoer could possibly require.

On the downside, Jeff Dumas disappoints as Arthur's sidekick Patsy; his big number, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," is less than infectious. As Lancelot, Rick Holmes seems pretty much at sea -- and if you're going to give us a Peter Allen moment, you'd better be a hot dancer. David Turner doesn't make much of an impression as cowardly Sir Robin, and he lacks the panache to put over "You Won't Succeed on Broadway." As a result, the implicit anti-Semitism of the lyrics hangs heavily in the air.

Is Spamalot the Second Coming from a Python-head perspective? Not quite, although certain elements -- the faux-Finnish "Fisch Schlapping Song" that starts off the show, the pair of castle guards who quibble over the carrying capacity of the African swallow -- summon fond memories of the troupe's work. But the Pythons' best bits were always an amalgam of several geniuses bouncing comic ideas off one another. Here, we're limited to the contribution of Eric Idle as book writer-lyricist, and though he's certainly witty, he doesn't always approach the inspired madness that lent the ensemble work its inimitable aura of mayhem-in-the-making.

The show is also confined by its format; as a book musical, it must proceed fairly logically from point A (challenge and quest) to B (conquest and resolution). Still Spamalot offers a steady supply of laughs -- and to miss Pia Glenn's performance would be to pass up a true phenomenon.

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