Music: Eric Idle and John Du Prez
Book and Lyrics: Eric Idle
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Jim Nicholson
The spectacle of the West End has gone, the cast has halved, the scenery hardly changes so have we the public of Southampton been lovingly ripped off by Bill Kenwright for this touring version of the smash hit musical Spamalot? No, not in the slightest, all the comic genius of the show is still alive and more than kicking, and consequently it’s a KNIGHT out not to be missed.
Based on the 1975 Monty Python Holy Grail film, Eric Idle first took the musical production to Broadway in 2005 where it was nominated for 14 Tony Awards. The following year Tim Curry, who had starred in the American show, transferred back to England and a West End Palace Theatre opening, but alas it gained zero Olivier’s despite seven nominations.
So how does this scaled down version still work so well? Firstly the jokes are still all there, the joyously silly songs are still there and there are also one or two tweaks that give it a UK feel where perhaps earlier its American birth had held it back a little.
A classic example of this is the rewritten version of ‘You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz. Whereas the London version stuck to the Broadway concept of you will not get anywhere without the backing of a Jew, we now home in on Simon Cowell and the ‘X factor’ generation and the fact your musical will not succeed without a TV star.
Marcus Brigstocke gives a decent performance as King Arthur and his comic background means he certainly knows how to deliver, whilst former Emmerdale actress and season five Dancing on Ice winner Hayley Tamaddon proves she really can sing even if her casting fits our ‘You Won’t Succeed’ concept to a tee.
Stars of the show without a doubt though are Graham MacDuff, Simon Lipkin and David Langham. Each play a multitude of parts and all are downright brilliant in each and every one of them.
MacDuff is literally side splitting as the blood thirsty Sir Lancelot, who has a secret hidden deep down inside, he again steals centre stage as the fabulous French Taunter (missed those silly arms though), and is in top notch form as the Knight of Ni and as Tim the Enchanter.
Lipkin is every bit as good, be it as the dashing, hair tossing, Sir Gallahad, the ‘let’s call it a draw’ Black Knight or the irate, song hating father of Prince Herbert.
Now I loved both of these but if I had to name ‘the winner on the phone vote’ that would go to David Langham. As both Drop Dead Fred and Prince Herbert he was simply rollickingly funny.
Todd Carty, the Kings faithful steed Patsy, managed to get as many laughs as most with half the lines, he really takes stupid to a whole new level, and the audience love it.
This may not be the strongest show song wise but it is foot tappingly good and despite a lack of cast numbers Jenny Arnold has delivered some sharp choreography, although I am sure even she would have liked more than two laker girls.
The set is very plain, forest to the left, castle to the right and a back drop picture of Camelot that lifted a few times during the show for the odd extra tree, rock or screened recording of God (aka Eric Idle). Hugh Durrant’s simple design obviously enabled him to spend plenty of time on the costumes and these seemed far more ‘morris dancer’ than I remember from the original.
Director Christopher Luscombe has come up trumps on a Kenwright budget and delivered us a Bentley for the price of a Mini. Do not miss.