Friday, September 15, 2006

"We eat ham and jam and spam alot"

Thursday the 14th I went to see Monty Python's Spamalot in the Benedum theatre, Pittsburgh.

Purdy, no?

Despite having seen and enjoyed Flying Circus on a few occasions, I never bothered to watch any of the Python films. Seeing as Spamalot follows the basic story arc of the film Knights of the Holy Grail, I figured this was as good an excuse as any to watch the DVD that had been ripped to my computer some months ago. Without getting too much into it - I enjoyed the film, but there were a few jokes that dragged on just a little too long, and a few gags that missed. As much as I appreciated the ending; a parody on the movie-making-maxim; "end on something worthwhile", I was disappointed by it - it just seems unfinished!

Twenty of so hours later, and I'm sitting in a rather impressive theatre in Pittsburgh, feeling inappropriately dressed compared to everyone else who has shown up sporting a suit or dress of some description. The seats were alright - we were up on the balcony, and more or less all the way to the right.


The show opens with the orchestra 'screwing up', and the conductor shooting the (I think it was a) trumpeteer. He survives the first shot and continues to make a hilarious, feeble sound with his instrument, only to be shot again, quelling the racket to rapturous laughter and applause from the audience.

The best jokes are the ones that variate the most from the movie, and the show excells when it strays further from its source material. The story elements have been claned up to make the entire affair more coherent, and the scenes no longer feel like a collection of skits. The best bits from the film are by and large present and correct, and the 'special effects' very imaginatively pulled off. There are many, many scenes that are complete non-sequiturs, (such as the opening scene) and towards the end of the play especially, characters lose all respect for the fourth wall, addressing the audience and making self-referential jokes at every possible opportunity.

The songs are hilarious, and there's enough there to please most people; and even when the songs are slow and soppy, writer Eric Idle had the decency to throw plenty of funny lyrics in to make them worthwhile listening.

The ending is completely different to the film, and dare I say it, original! It's funny, it makes sense, (well, kindof), and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser! I really don't understand why I'm not putting in spoilers, considering that it'll probably never make its way to Ireland, but I'm sure the legions of Python fans in the UK will have to be sated...

In summing up, I'd like to quote my German-buddy Tom;
"I'm glad I saw the film first, because if I saw the musical first and then watched the film, I'd have been very disappointed"
Well said, Tom!

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