Sunday, April 08, 2007


This is a bit outside my usual subject matter realm, but I saw the new Vegas production of Spamalot at the Wynn last night, and feel inspired to comment on it. First of all, I largely agree with Julie Seabaugh's review from Las Vegas Weekly: It's an entertaining, fun show that completely lacks structure, and serves mostly to remind you how good the movie is. It's the show's relationship to the film that I find the most interesting, though. Now, I am far from an expert on musical theater or indeed the current trend of adapting films into stage musicals, but I find the logic behind the transmutation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail into Spamalot entirely baffling. As much as I hated The Producers musical film (although I can only guess how I'd feel about the stage production, having not bothered to see the Vegas version), I can understand how and why the original movie would seem like an ideal candidate for transformation into a stage (and later screen) musical. It is a story entirely about Broadway and the glories/absurdities of staging a large-scale musical production. The journey from screen to stage and back again seemed almost organic.

But the Python film, with its non sequitur sense of humor and cult following, seems supremely unsuited to this sort of treatment, and indeed the show takes so many liberties with the source material that it is at times unrecognizable. And much of what is added turns it into a play about putting on a Broadway musical - surprise, just like The Producers. I don't know much about how hardcore Python fans feel about the play, but as a casual fan (it's been a few years since I last saw the movie), I found it a little insulting. It really drains all the cleverness and excitement out of the jokes to play them up so crassly and make them into cute little production numbers. As we were walking out of the theater, I said to my friend who came to the show with me (and who hasn't seen the movie, but was also underwhelmed) that it was like if someone took another beloved quirky cult movie (like The Big Lebowski, for example) and made it into a musical, and turned every quotable line (say, "The rug really tied the room together") into a five-minute song-and-dance number. It'd be amusing, but it'd kind of miss the point. Of course, my friend pointed out that within five years there probably will be a Big Lebowski musical. And I will probably be the first in line to see it.

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