Tuesday, 29 January 2008


Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne.

When it was announced a few years ago that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was being made into a stage musical, I knew Eric Idle was behind it. For years he'd been the one milking Python's legacy with new albums, new books and his 'Greedy Bastard' tour.

Then when I heard the title would be Spamalot I knew he'd finally flipped. As far as I was concerned he'd sold Python utterly down the river and abandoned its wondrous comic legacy to derision and ridicule. I wept.

But then the show opened on Broadway to quite some success. The reviews were good. Derision and ridicule were nowhere to be seen.

I swallowed my pride and saw the Broadway production two years ago, and I was awestruck. I apologised profusely to Eric for doubting him (in my imagination, of course . . . although I must say he accepted it very graciously).

Then last week I saw the Melbourne show and while it wasn't quite up there (missing, as it was, Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce) it's still great purely on the strength of the material. And Stephen Hall was very good as Lancelot.

For Spamalot, Idle has managed to bring together into a cohesive narrative the bunch of disparate sketches that make up the film, and it's nothing short of genius. To top it off, he's peppered it with a bunch of great tunes that both take the piss out of Broadway excess, while at the same time showing you how amazing it can be when it's all done properly.

The great songs only hinted at in the movie (like Brave Sir Robin and Knights of the Round Table) are pleasantly expanded upon. And the great dialogue from the movie, like the migratory sparrow, the mudeater's political diatribe and the French taunting, are all left more or less intact.

So if it's a choice between Spamalot and Priscilla, go see Spamalot.

Or I shall taunt you a second time.

4 out of 5