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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Original Broadway Cast Recording-Spamalot

MUSIC REVIEWS

Original Broadway Cast Recording-Spamalot (Decca Broadway)

It seems like every musical that hits the Great White Way these days is a musical update of an older movie.  Some of them, like The Producers and Beauty & the Beast seem like a natural.  Others, like Footloose, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Big are more of a stretch.  However, of all the musicals based on a movie that have hit the boards, none has had more unlikely source material than Spamalot, a musical adaptation of the classic 1974 cult comedy Monty Python & the Holy Grail.   

After all, how can you capture the inspired lunacy of the film on stage; the European (not African) swallows, the rude Frenchmen, the shrubbery, the Trojan rabbit, the 500 virgins, the Knights that say "Ni," the oppressed masses, the people who aren't quite dead yet, not to mention more than a few pissed off bobbies?

On the plus side, the book and music were written by former-Python member Eric Idle (the other members did not get involved, but they did give it their blessing.)  I haven't seen the show yet, so I can't comment on that, but on the evidence of the Original Cast Album, it looks like the story has been tweaked rather significantly.  The pleasant surprise is that the new songs are even better than the old standbys imported from the movie.  The cast is made up of some old pro comedians who are also rather good singers, including Tim Curry (who 30 years ago stalked the boards in Rocky Horror Picture Show), David Hyde Pierce (a.k.a. Niles Crane of the long-lived sitcom Frasier) and Hank Azaria (of The Simpsons).

The best of those is still the hilarious minstrels singing "The Ballad of Sir Robin" (though I am a tiny bit disappointed that the story has apparently been changed so that the even funnier reprise to the song got cut out.)  There is also the well known pre-Riverdance stomper "Camelot."  The musical's title comes from this song, an awkwardly funny attempt to make a rhyme with the title city.  Strangely, there are also a couple of bouncy sing-alongs of "Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life."  Granted, it is one of the best-known Python songs ever, but anyone who has even a passing knowledge of Python knows that the song is not from Holy Grail, it is from the infamous crucifixation scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian. 

However, like I said earlier, the best moments come in Idle's new songs.  These cover such ground as the gaudy faux-disco of "His Name Is Lancelot" and the wonderfully funny Andrew Lloyd Webber send-ups "Diva's Lament (Whatever Happened To My Part?)" and "The Song That Goes Like This."  As you can probably tell by these titles, it sometimes gets to be a bit of a one-joke puzzle-box premise (lots of songs about what its like to be singing about what they are singing about.).  It's a good joke, though, and also a surprisingly likable cast album.  (5/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2005 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: May 6, 2005.

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Copyright 2005 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: May 6, 2005.