Spamalot attempts to please both Monty Python fans and lovers of the musical genre. As these two 'targets' are polar opposites, it understandably ends up being a hit and miss attempt. Scaled down from the West End and Broadway versions, the show is "loving ripped off from the film " Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
For Python fans, this means they can sit in anticipation of some the classic lines/skits which they know and love. The "Only A Flesh Wound" sketch for example remains amusing as it essentially is an affectionate swipe at the British reserve. But this is now so often seen in everything from "100 Best..." compilation shows, and nostalgic TV fillers that it has now lost its initial momentum and also feels too diluted here, aiming for a family audience, as opposed to the adult original.
Telling the tale of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table means there is plenty to enjoy as the story is familiar to all, regardless of feelings towards the original Python film. There are some geuninely funny moments, thanks to many cast members who completely embrace the material, however dated - including some lazy stereotypes of gay men that were commonplace in 1975, but here feel out of place and unfunny.
Graham MacDuff is wonderful as Sir Lancelot as his obvious enjoyment is completely infectious and he is 'game' throughout, as is the always excellent Simon Lipkin who has wowed the West End in Avenue Q - now doing the same on tour as Sir Galahad . Samuel Holmes and David Langham bring both musicality and comedy to their roles as Sir Robin and Prince Herbert, holding their own against the star names.
The small ensemble also do a very fine job - doing the work of four times their number. As is often in musical theatre, household names appear to get the punters in and this time it leads to mixed results. Marcus Brigstocke seems slightly lost and for a very fine comedian, he is not as amusing as you want him to be. It's a shame that he does not improvise a great deal more, as this fast and loose approach would suit the show.
Todd Carty is completely wasted as Patsy - a Baldrick from Blackadder type of role and he does admirable work with the role he is given. But one cannot help but wonder what he would have of the lead role, much more than Brigstocke, methinks, considering his vast acting experience and warm stage presence.
It is down to Jodie Prenger to provide the gusto, knowing winks, bags of energy, comic timing and vocal gymnastics. She is so good that she lifts many of the poor songs to another level. "The Song That Goes Like This" is incredibly limited in both its target (Songs that go like this!) and its merits as a musical number. But Prenger takes the material, improvises and sends up her own competition winning vocal style so much so, that she amusingly sounds like an X Factor contestant keen to impress a judge by warbling a variety of styles all at once.
Director Christopher Luscombe gives the production a tight pace, meaning that your attention rarely flags. This show may be insubstantial and a tad confused as to what it actually is, but thanks to Prenger and the excellent supporting cast, Spamlalot will leave you with a silly grin on your face.