Why is Spamalot so darned funny? The original movie is as old as avocado appliances and shag carpeting. Like almost everything else from the 1970s, it should by all rights feel awkward and out of date when done today.
The Broadway musical, of course, is new, after a fashion. The stage version was patched together in 2004 from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so it’s more or less contemporary while still maintaining the British comedy troupe’s deep sense of absurdity.
For whatever reason, Spamalot still works and works wonderfully, as you can see for yourself through June 5 at Eugene’s Very Little Theatre. The VLT is doing a straight-up version of the musical, with all our favorite characters — the quadruple amputee Black Knight (as in, “Twas just a scratch!”), the Knights of Ni, and the Lady of the Lake. Not to mention those splendid Python tunes, from “Not Dead Yet” to my all-time favorite, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Oh yes — and dancing girls and a killer rabbit.
Chris Pinto directs a big cast for this show, which is as good-hearted as it is funny; in fact, maybe that good-heartedness is the biggest change in seeing Python humor after a few decades of exposure — what one seemed so darkly subversive years ago is now sweet and belly-laugh funny. No matter. Pinto’s pacing is even, if sometimes slightly bland; let’s just say he doesn’t stand in the way of a good joke, and that’s just fine.
Shawn Bookey plays a creditable King Arthur, who is off in search of the Holy Grail in this medieval drama; Fehmi Sami Yasin is charming as Sir Galahad. Jennifer Parks is a perfectly sultry and brazen Lady of the Lake, a character who swings into meta mode now and then to complain about getting enough exposure in the show; she also does a perfect parody of an over-the-top amateur singer, the one we’ve heard belt out so many national anthems over the years.
My favorite of a very good cast was Michael P. Watkins, as Patsy, Arthur’s horse; Watkins has just the right bland expression to pull off the Monty Python humor with complete authenticity.
So this Spamalot is funny and fun and true to its sardonic roots. The public is already loving this show — it looked sold out tonight on a weeknight — so get your tickets soon if you mean to go.