AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music by John Du Prez & Eric Idle
Lyrics & Book by Eric Idle
Directed by Mike Nichols
Presented by Best of Broadway
Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor St., San Francisco / (415) 776-1999

Reviewed by Judy Richter

The Monty Python brand of British comedy is not everyone's cup of tea, as least as evidenced by its musical comedy offshoot, "Spamalot." Even though the 2005 Broadway production won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical, its sophomoric humor soon grows wearisome with its emphasis on bodily wastes and flatulence. It's a follow-up to the 1975 film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," created and performed by the six-man Monty Python team that also created "Monty Python's Flying Circus," a popular British TV series that ran from 1969 to 1974.

The musical features a book and lyrics by Eric Idle, a member of that troupe. Idle also teamed with John Du Prez to write the music. (Idle and Du Prez joined the cast for the curtain call at opening night.) Direction is by Mike Nichols. The plot features the quest by King Arthur (John O'Hurley) and his Knights of the Round Table to find the Holy Grail. Neither Arthur nor the knights are particularly bright, but they do succeed in their quest after encountering numerous obstacles.

The show does have its production pluses, including choreography by Casey Nicholaw, the set and costumes by Tim Hatley, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and projections by Elaine J. McCarthy. The sound design by Acme Sound Partners keeps the volume at a comfortable level, something quite rare in today's musicals. The singing is generally good. The standout is Merle Dandridge as the Lady of the Lake, who knows how to belt out a tune. Spoofs of other musicals are fun, especially "The Song That Goes Like This," a parody of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his "The Phantom of the Opera." "West Side Story," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Company" and "The Man of La Mancha" have cameos.

Besides O'Hurley and Dandridge, principals in the cast include Jeff Dumas aa Arthur's long suffering manservant Patsy, James Beaman as Sir Robin, Matthew Greer as Sir Lancelot, Ben Davis as Sir Galahad, Christopher Gurr as Sir Bedevere and Christopher Sutton as Prince Herbert. Most of them play numerous other characters. John Cleese, an original Monty Python, provides the voice of God.

The show was well received at opening night, but I found the humor and repetition of jokes and sight gags just too silly or tasteless for my tastes.

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