'Spamalot' review — Monty Python musical succeeds on Broadway, again

Read our four-star review of the first revival of Spamalot on Broadway, the musical adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, at the St. James Theatre.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

The Phantom of the Opera is not dead yet! The show may have closed at the Majestic Theatre earlier this year, but for five hilarious minutes across the street at Spamalot, during "The Song That Goes Like This," its vestiges float in on a gondola shrouded in smoke, under the light of a video-projected chandelier. And that's far from the only other musical that makes a cameo.

Spamalot being a tasting flight of Broadway's past and present hits is one of the best reasons to recommend it. On a budget or a time crunch? For one price of admission, you'll get bits of the can-can dancing of Moulin Rouge!, the jazzy scatting of Some Like It Hot, the iconic French flag wave from Les Mis, the slinky Fosse-esque moves of Chicago (and a direct nod to his iconic "Mein Herr" chair-ography from Cabaret), and more.

Not to mention the rest of Spamalot, adapted by Monty Python founding member Eric Idle and John Du Prez from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The irrevent account of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table cemented itself as a modern classic upon clinching the holy grail of theatre honors — the Best Musical Tony Award — in 2005.

This Broadway revival, Spamalot's first, feels like a proclamation that the musical's heyday is not dead yet, either. Director/choreographer Josh Rhodes's production, in particular Paul Tate dePoo III's set and Jen Caprio's costumes, are plainly inspired by the original's, and Monty Python's trademark, silly sketch comedy is all but entirely intact. That is for better or for worse: Brief bits of man-in-dress humor from 2005 haven't aged well, but the few script updates are similarly hit and miss. New references to the NYC subway and Lea Michele feel fresher than a now-passé nod to the viral "Angela Bassett did the thing" video.

The most iconic bits — fisch schlapping, coconuts as horseshoes — are timeless, though your laughter will simply be proportional to how much you enjoy Monty Python's silly sketch-comedy style in general. My personal favorites are the "so bad they're good" puns, like when Arthur (James Monroe Iglehart) describes the Holy Grail as a "symbol," cueing the cymbalist.

The other strength of Spamalot is that it gives every one of its principal cast members a chance to shine. And shine they do. Ethan Slater proves himself one of the best physical comedians on Broadway right now in a variety of bit parts, making each one feel larger than life. Michael Urie makes a meal of the showstopping "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" as Sir Robin, and Christopher Fitzgerald does the same with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" as Patsy, though his best moment is his silent comedic acting in the background of Arthur's "I'm All Alone."

And Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer channels no less than half a dozen pop and Broadway divas — Cher, Mariah Carey, and Idina Menzel among them — in her glittering turn as the Lady of the Lake. Nevermind the Act 2 sequence in which the gang actually completes their quest (with some audience help, in one of Spamalot's best scenes) — the high note Kritzer finds at the end of "Diva's Lament" is the true holy grail.

Spamalot is at the St. James Theatre. Get Spamalot tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

Photo credit: Michael Urie, Nik Walker, James Monroe Iglehart, Christopher Fitzgerald, Jimmy Smagula, and Taran Killam in Spamalot. (Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

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