Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review of Upstart's MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT: A Cheery and Chuckly Camelot

July 29, 2017

Monty Python were a British comedy group composed of British comedians Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. They shot to fame because of their sketch comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus, which was broadcast by the BBC from 1969-74. After the TV show folded, they had films as well. Their first "proper" film with all-original material was a spoof of Arthurian legends called "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975).

"Spamalot" is musical stage version of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" with book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by John Du Prez, which made its Broadway debut in 2005. There were a couple of songs from the source film itself, "Knights of the Round Table" and "Brave Sir Robin", both by Neil Innes. The show's most familiar-sounding song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was also by Idle, but it was for the film "Monty Python's Life of Brian" (1979).

The original 2005 Broadway production was a commercial and critical success. It won three of its 14 Tony nominations, including Best Musical, Best Direction for a Musical (for Mike Nichols) and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (for Sara Ramirez, who played The Lady in the Lake). The show ran for more than 1,500 performances, closing in 2009. A West End production ran from 2006-2009, and had multiple Olivier nominations as well (no wins).

King Arthur (Lorenz Martinez) and his horse Patsy (Domileo Espejo)
(Publicity photo by Jaypee Maristaza)

Arthur, King of the Britons, armed and guided by the Lady of the Lake, is riding around the British countryside gathering a group of brave men to be his Knights of the Round Table. God spoke to Arthur to tell him and his men to go on a quest for the Holy Grail. Along the way, the King and his knights encounter a great many adventures, like the one with taunting French soldiers, the persistent Black Knight, the demanding Knights Who Say Ni, the effeminate Prince Herbert, the suspended Tim the Enchanter and the deadly Killer Rabbit. 

When you first see how King Arthur "rides" his horse Patsy, you'd think that this was just a silly technique to save the production from having to have a real horse on stage. Actually, though this was really the way Monty Python portrayed the horse in the film, a man galloping behind the king clip-clopping a pair of coconut shells for the hoof beats. In a later number, the Knights slyly inserted a "maglalatik" segment with their coconut shells, just one of many ad libs in this show.

In fact, that whole conversion with the guards about the coconuts and the migrating swallows was actually straight out of the film. Incredibly, a lot of the outrageous scenes and dialog of the play were likewise directly lifted from the film: like the man collecting corpses, Arthur's first meeting with Dennis Galahad and his mother, Arthur being told by God about the quest, the bloody fight with the Black Knight, the French soldiers throwing a cow off the ramparts, the stupid Trojan Rabbit incident, the loopy exchange between Herbert's father and his guard, the search for the shrubbery, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, among others.  

Knights and Horse take a bow (Rayos, Schulze, Rosen, Reyes and Espejo)

Lorenz Martinez is ever so comically hammy as King Arthur, like he did playing Mandy Patinkin in "Forbidden Broadway" (MY REVIEW) and Christian Gray in "50 Shades the Musical" (MY REVIEW). Martinez was no slouch in the singing department as we know very well. Domileo Espejo plays the loyal horse Patsy, and in that role, he got to sing the bright and cheerful show tune "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." 

Noel Rayos (as Sir Lancelot, the French Taunter, Tim the Enchanter, the Head Knight of Ni on stilts) is really very much at home in these loud and florid roles, as we had seen him from in past shows. Reb Atadero gave it his all in all those little roles he did, like never-say-die Not Dead Fred, the boot-licking minstrel of Sir Robin (singing the funny "Brave Sir Robin"), and the damsel-in-distress Prince Herbert.

With their long locks, facial hair and Caucasian looks, actors George Schulze (as the cowardly Sir Robin), Bibo Reyes (as the flatulent Sir Bevedere) and Dean Rosen (as the dashing Sir Galahad) looked like real British knights. In my opinion though, they still came across a wee bit awkward with the comedy routines they had to do. Nevertheless, they were clearly having fun up there.

Carla Guevara-Laforteza in one of her Libiran gowns
(Publicity photo by Jaypee Maristaza)

A totally new character not in the film gets to sing the most showstopping numbers, the Lady of the Lake. A couple of her songs actually talks directly to the audience, "The Song That Goes Like This" in Act 1 spoofing overwrought musical theater love songs, and the totally hilarious "The Diva's Lament" in Act 2, where she whines about her short role in the play. 

The fabulous Carla Guevara-Laforteza was radiant every time she stepped out on that stage solidly belting out those killer notes. As the Lady of the Lake, she also gets to wear glamorous gowns designed by Francis Libiran, channeling divas from Cher and Norma Desmond. Laforteza clearly enjoyed every high-fashion moment as she sashayed with aplomb in all her flowy and glittery get-ups. 

Chino VeguillasRoxy AldiosaRachel Coates and Edrei Tan complete the wacky ensemble.

The jokes fly fast and furious here. Some may fly above your heads. Some don't fly at all. Some are drowned by the heavy British accents. Some are corny and groan-inducing. But a lot are still really very funny, especially all the references to musical theater and all those crazy puns (symbol, arms), hilarious pop references (like Justin Bieber, Village People) and Pinoy-centric ad libs (RCBC Theater, Lea Salonga). The unrefined set (by Ed Lacson, Jr) and silly props fit right into the absurdness of the whole show. 

This is simply one very rollicking happy show. A smile on your face is guaranteed, with several chuckles and guffaws along the way for the especially ticklish, like me. Kudos to director Joel Trinidad, co-director Nicky Trivino, musical director Onyl Torres, the live band, and the rest of the cast and crew!

The Whole Cast Takes a Bow


"MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT" has a very short run of 9 shows: Fri. Jul 28 (9pm), Sat. Jul 29 (3pm), Sun. Jul 30 (3pm), Fri. Aug 4 (9pm), Sat. Aug 5 (3pm & 8pm), Sun. Aug 6 (3pm), Fri. Aug 11 (9pm) and Sat. Aug 12 (8pm). 

Venue is at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium (4th Floor, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Ave., cor. Gil Puyat Ave. Makati City). Ticket prices are: ₱2,090 (Orchestra Center), ₱1,881 (Orchestra Sides), ₱1,567.50 (Loge) and ₱1,045 (Balcony) from Ticketworld.

I need to comment about the price of parking at the RCBC which increased effective this month. I arrived and parked at a little before 2:30 pm and left around 5:30 pm, and paid P110, which I found exorbitant for the time I spent there. I wish there would be special consideration for people watching a play there. 


  1. British accent is really a lot harder to understand especially if it's heavy. In this case, I think the gestures and facial expressions would be succinct to help out in giving context clues to the audiences.

  2. I have never seen a live theater performance, except the Disney shows. This one in particular seems interesting.:)

  3. It looks like a really feel good play to watch and would definitely bring smiles in your face. I feel you on the parking. I get the same feel on the parking rates at BGC and it's even more exorbitant there at P50 per hour after 3 hours. I would try to catch this one.

  4. I haven't seen this before but I've heard so much about it. It's on my list to watch one day! Thank you.

  5. I haven't heard of them, so thanks for introducing them to me!
    I should check out the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail first of all!
    The jokes and fast and furious? That's an interesting review!

  6. Lucky you get to see something so vibrant and colorful. stage performances always have an energy that is mesmerising compared to the screen.

  7. It's been a while since I last watched a show (I think it was Rock of Ages in 2010.. not so sure anymore). But one thing I remember about watching shows like this is that I love good adlibs! They're really usually very funny! I'm glad you enjoyed the show. :)

  8. Spamalot reminds me of Camelot, a castle of King Arthur. It's associated with the Kmights of the Roundtable. However, this is a comedy film. I want to watch and enjoy laughing episodes of the movie.

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  10. I haven't heard of them. But one thing I remember about watching shows like this that I loved so much a good classic adlibs. However, I want to watch this comedy film and enjoy laughing.