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HomeEntertainmentReview | ‘Spamalot’ might be retro, but it’s still a riot

Review | ‘Spamalot’ might be retro, but it’s still a riot


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And I mean that in the most fruitfully happy way. The Kennedy Center’s scrumptious revival of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” supplies just the kind of relief you crave from the continual nonsense in the world outside the Eisenhower Theater — with priceless nonsense inside.

How Kennedy Center production of ‘Spamalot’ came together in two weeks

The gags of the 2005 musical by Eric Idle and John Du Prez — “lovingly ripped off” from the celebrated 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — are divinely restored to stage life by director-choreographer Josh Rhodes and a wickedly wacky cast of 18. How funny is this daft assault on your laugh reflex? Let me count (some of) the ways:

  • Michael Urie, as a valor-deprived Sir Robin, finding his irresistible sweet spot in a boffo production number about the Jewish people’s everlasting Broadway glory.
  • Alex Brightman, as a spokesman for the Knights Who Say “Ni!,” ad-libbing his way to theater immortality.
  • The Killer Bunny. Omg.
  • Nik Walker, summoning his inner Robert Goulet for a self-adoring turn as Sir Galahad in “The Song That Goes Like This.”
  • Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, the show’s glamour-hogging Lady of the Lake, out-Elphaba-ing Idina Menzel with a high note higher than anything in “Defying Gravity.”
  • Rob McClure’s petulant Prince Herbert, so irritatingly lovelorn. And yet at the same time, so adorably needy.

This Broadway Center Stage mounting is a tightly packed clown car, speeding to musical-theater nirvana. (Did I mention James Monroe Iglehart as a superb straight man of a King Arthur, with his trusty patsy, Patsy, played by Matthew Saldivar, forever at his side?)

Musical comedies, like bananas, can go bad. But time has been kind to Python’s mix of high- and lowbrow humor. The antics are of a variety that deconstructs the irrationality of king-making in one moment (“We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune,” declares a peasant played by Walker) and sends up bodily functions in the next (“I fart in your general direction!” Brightman shouts in an outrageously snooty French accent).

Idle, in a dead heat with the other original Pythons as the funniest Python, wrote a book for the musical that nostalgically re-creates some of the movie’s best episodes and adds a cheeky, meta-theatrical lampoon of Broadway conventions. Idle collaborated on the score with Du Prez, who was in the audience Sunday night when the show officially opened. “What happens in Camelot stays in Camelot!” King Arthur exclaims at the outset of a splashy Vegas number with scantily clad chorines — the Lady of the Lake’s Laker Girls — dancing while carrying platters of jiggling mounds of gelatin.

It’s rude, it’s retro, it’s a riot. Set designer Paul Tate dePoo III places the 14-member Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, conducted by John Bell, atop primitive arched structures straight out of a medieval video game. Even dePoo’s projections are in on the joke: Wait for the jaw-dropping visual slapdown of a certain Long Island congressional prevaricator during “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” Idle, who supplies the voice of God, encouraged the company to add choice improvisations — and, well, mission accomplished.

Letting this rowdy gang loose on the musical feels like an affectionate perpetuation of the Python spirit. Rhodes, who directed “The Who’s Tommy” for the Broadway Center Stage series, which produces concert-style revivals of Broadway favorites, spreads the glee liberally. An energy-boosting dancing ensemble, 10 strong, brings welcome collective dashes of savvy and wit to the rousing production numbers. There’s a disciplined looseness to the proceedings, a sense of a big occasion during which everyone is going to get their comic shot. And everyone does.

I won’t commit the injustice of highlighting one performance over any other. Not when coaxing us into a delirious frame of mind is such a successful team effort — by players drafted from the major leagues of lunacy.

Monty Python’s Spamalot, book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Idle. Directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes. Music direction, John Bell; sets and projections, Paul Tate dePoo III; lighting, Cory Pattak; costumes supervision, Jen Caprio; sound, Haley Parcher. With Jimmy Smagula. About 2 hours 20 minutes. Through Sunday at the Kennedy Center.

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