Musical theatre fans will recall the classic Camelot, Lerner and Loewe's earnest and somewhat silly depiction of the court of Camelot and the adventures of the Knights of the Round Table. Then there's Monty Python's Spamalot, an entirely silly depiction of the Knights of the Round Table. Relatively speaking, its humor and commentary fall safely within the comedic range of author Eric Idle (book and lyrics).
Which is to say, it's funny and occasionally outrageous, but not as outrageous as the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, on which Spamalot is based. It's a different creature, really. One is a film that broke cinematic convention with a humor and sensibility rooted in the comedy troupe's Oxbridge background. The other is what happens when you force a movie like that to conform to the current conventions of Broadway shows. For example, the song "Knights of the Round Table" in the film is over almost before it's begun. The humor comes from seeing armored knights form a sloppy kick line, interspersed with quick glimpses of the general nastiness of medieval life. In the musical, it's an extended, polished number whose humor comes from the deliberately over-the-top presentation, with grand costumes and amusing choreography.
Summer Stock Austin's production of Spamalot is strong. The high school and college student company has great singers and dancers, and their many British accents are quite good considering there's no credited dialect coach. (The French is nearly there.)
With this kind of comedy, there's a fine line to walk between overly broad and too subtle, and the cast, as directed and choreographed by SSA co-founder and producer Ginger Morris, finds a good balance most of the time. As Sir Robin, Coy Branscum delivers an especially delightful performance. He occasionally does that surprisingly difficult thing of just standing there without moving his hands or arms, trusting that stillness can sometimes be even funnier than big gestures. Spamalot doesn't afford much in the way of women's roles outside of the chorus, but the Lady of the Lake supplies some truly great songs. Lydia Kamm has an impressive and powerful voice, and she takes a part without much meat and makes it fabulous.
Like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Spamalot is an ensemble show with a lot of talent in the cast. Summer Stock Austin's production is an enjoyable addition to Austin's summer musical season.
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