Monday, December 13, 2010

We Eat Ham and Jam and Spam a Lot!

Monty Python’s Spamalot
09 December 2010: EJ Thomas Hall, Akron, Ohio

Along with our good friends Greg and Karen, Tracy and I are Broadway in Akron subscribers. We still see shows up at Playhouse Square regularly, but we are always happy to have and support theater a little more locally in Akron. It’s a short, four-show season at EJ Thomas Hall on the campus of the University of Akron, but the selection this year is great.

Because of work travel back in October, I missed the first show of the season, A Chorus Line, so Tracy ended up taking her mom as her date with Greg and Karen. This month, however, there was no way I would be missing the show… Monty Python’s Spamalot! Tracy and I had seen the show back in 2006 up at Playhouse Square, and the production has retained every bit of its irreverence and humor.

I know the source material backwards and forwards – it was (and still is) a staple of my everyday lexicon. But I had forgotten much of the musical in the four years since I’d last seen it. Where The Producers (another fine movie and adapted musical) is Mel Brooks’ skewering of Broadway, Spamalot is the Python’s – or, more specifically, Eric Idle’s – take on the Great White Way. Oh, sure. The roots of the movie and the parody of Arthurian legend remains, but make no mistake this musical is poking more fun at the theater than the off-the-street Python fan might be expecting walking into the show blind.

It’s kind of Python-lite. Sure, there’s a little something to offend everyone in there, but it’s designed for mass consumption. And Python has always been an acquired taste, particularly in the States. Act 1’s “Knights of the Round Table” features a monk and a nun in a seductive dance counterbalanced by act 2’s “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” roast of Jews. But by and large, it plays broad.

New this tour is the insertion of local references into the show based on the city the performance is taking place in. Falling somewhere between your favorite band shouting “Thank you, [insert city name]! Good night!” and Bono referencing a long-gone dive bar the band played in your town 30 years ago, it’s still a nice touch that makes the show unique to each city the tour hits.

I enjoyed Spamalot and the night out with Tracy and friends, but I definitely felt a different sensibility about the production compared with what I remembered feeling last time. Maybe it’s too much of the “Mel Brooks Effect” – the penchant for movie property owners to turn their product into musical theater – that is coloring my response this time around.