It wasn’t the first time in recent memory Spamalot had visited Liverpool – and it showed. Boasting (by chance rather than design) the same stars as its first visit eighteen months ago, it was hopeful that their musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail would offer the same good value as the first time round.
We had Marcus Brigstocke as King Arthur; Todd Carty as his loyal Patsy, clipping the coconuts behind him; and Jodie Prenger as the Lady in the Lake. No offence to any of our leads, but maybe a change in there somewhere would have done us good.
Last time, MADE UP said it could (swirling newspaper front page to camera) be “the funniest show that has ever made it onto the Empire stage”. Tonight left me wondering what I ever could have been thinking.
Tonight’s version seemed heavy with in-jokes and fatigue. The cast seemed to be egging each other on to ad lib, and the biggest laughs came as a result of this as they battled with corpsing. When the famous scene with the belligerent French guard came a cropper as his moustache fell off in the middle of the “fart in your general direction” line, things all started to seem a bit low-rent. It was kind of cute – but not when you’re paying out for a show at the Empire, to be honest.
There was a saving grace – the wonderful Jodie Prenger, whose over-the-top diva turn as the Lady of the Lake fortunately made up for everything else the show lacked. Her character comes on in the second act to sing a number about not having enough stage time; many a true word spoken in jest, and all that.
Spamalot remains a funny show, full of witty songs and bursting with all your favourite scenes from the Holy Grail (with a bit of Life of Brian’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life thrown in). Lyrical changes seem quite clever and up to the minute, and the effort is made to incorporate the touring location into the show as well.
Like a big panto for grown ups, it’s impossible to dislike, and the build up to the big finale is so familiar and knowing you can’t leave without a smile on your face. In the end, Spamalot remains a positive and likeable show, full of classic laughs and heart, but needs to buck up its ideas if it’s going to keep doing the rounds like this.
Two words: More Prenger!