It’s a brave Amdram company that takes on Monty Python’s Spamalot but that’s what the Sutton Theatre Company have done for four days this May at the Epsom Playhouse and on the whole, they haven’t done too badly.
“Spamalot” is a big Broadway/West End musical with big songs, a very funny book and moments of Pythonesque slapstick, knockabout comedy. As the advertising says it’s a “New musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python And The Holy Grail” so there’s a lot to live up to!
To describe the plot would be futile as it’s pretty flimsy in truth, following the adventurers of King Arthur and his motley crew of knights of the round table in their search for the holy grail. This search takes in a Finnish fish slapping dance, the plague, can-can dancers and shrubbery!
As for the Sutton Theatre Company, they don’t do too bad. The stand-out performer is Cat Curtis as “The Lady Of The Lake” who has a wonderful voice that especially lends itself to her two big songs “The Song That Goes Like This” and “Whatever Happened To My Part”. The latter is part of the modern trend to self-knowing musicals such as The Book Of Mormon and Urinetown that refer to themselves as musicals within the songs and book. Curtis plays the diva perfectly as she steps in front of the curtains to lament the fact that she hasn’t been seen since early in act one.
As for the other parts, Jon Oddy as “King Arthur” has a fine operatic voice that I’m sure is perfectly suited for Gilbert & Sullivan etc. but he’s somewhat miscast here. James Tingey is very funny as “Patsy” especially during “I’m All Alone” where he bemoans the fact that he’s invisible to the King who he has dutifully followed forever. Unfortunately, some of the rest of the cast are a little weak and never really get to grips with being triple-threats as singers, actors and dancers but they all do their very best.
There’s a big ensemble who fill the stage and give a lot of energy to the show be they Finnish fish-slappers, townspeople, the French, monks and the Knight’s Who Say “Ni” amongst many others and there’s a big band directed by Neil Shrimpton who make a splendid noise and ably back the singers and dancers.
On the downside, the scene changes often take too much time and there are moments of silence whilst they’re being carried out which at times made the audience a bit restless. Also the ribald nature of some of the songs need the players to lose their inhibitions, something that they fail to do at times.
There is however one big mis-step that could have been avoided. When the show played on Broadway and at the Palace Theatre in the West End, there was a fairly controversial but very funny song called “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway (If You Don’t Have Any Jews)”. This was referring to the fact that a lot of Broadway shows are written by Jewish composers and lyricists, there a lot of Jewish performers and most importantly, most of the finance came from Jewish producers. This was seen as a satire by critics and theatregoers who understood that it wasn’t anti-Semitic. However, when the show toured the UK, this song was replaced by “You Won’t Succeed In Showbiz” and poked fun at celebrities in musicals and had Susan Boyle being shot by an arrow as well as lampooning Simon Cowell and his like. This would have been better suited to this production as there seemed to be some embarrassment in the audience who were confused by the song’s sentiments and a sudden outburst of klezmer music and “Fiddler On The Roof” style dancing!
However, for most of the evening the Epsom Playhouse audience were having a great time, laughing, clapping and singing along to “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” which the Sutton Theatre Company have done and deserve great praise for.
Review by Alan Fitter
11 May 2016 – 14 May 2016
Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot retells the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and features a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention coconuts, killer rabbits and Frenchmen. Many of the original characters from the movie are faithfully recreated such as the Knights who say “Ni” while new characters and other Python moments have been added to hilarious effect, including the classic “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
Aside from Monty Python, Spamalot is a great musical in its own right. With big Broadway numbers and spectacular dance sequences, this musical promises to leave you with a smile on your face. Book and Lyrics by Eric Idle. Music by John Du Prez & Eric Idle. From the original screenplay by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin.