Spamalot is a tried and tested Monty Python tribute show drawn in some part from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Familiarity with the film, or the Python oeuvre, is hardly essential but looking around the Buxton audience it was evident that many recognised some of the less obvious references.
The inclusion of the show-stopping Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, lifted from The Life Of Brian, is a happy piece of opportunism on the part of Eric Idle who largely takes the credit for writing and assembling the show which premiered on Broadway in 2005. Spamalot has been seen by millions since.
Idle was always the most musical Python and his collaboration with the Bonzo Dog Band’s Neil Innes dates from the late 1960s and the cult children’s TV programme Do Not Adjust Your Set. In the end Spamalot is much more a tongue in cheek pastiche of the musical format developed by Andrew Lloyd Webber or epitomised by Les Mis than it is authentic Python.
Stand out set pieces such as The Song That Goes Like This and I’m All Alone none too subtly point to the absurd cliches that have become part of the contemporary musical.
So King Arthur (Bob Harms) declaims that he has to face challenges All Alone when, as we have seen, he always has his faithful servant, the Baldrickesque Patsy (Rhys Owen), on hand with the coconut shells to sound the hooves of his horse.
By the end of the song Arthur has a whole choir on stage, confirming, as I thought, that he was not, indeed, All Alone.
This is an impeccable production. The sound and lightning team does brilliant work to enhance a well-designed and staged show. The small band in the orchestra pit keeps things moving along nicely and provides excellent support for the singers drawing out the cod drama of the power ballads.
There is energy and precision in the ensemble work with a cast of 11. Spamalot was designed as an entertainment and it is a long while since I have been better entertained at the Buxton Opera House.
Spamalot can be seen at Buxton Opera House until January 20. For tickets go to http://www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk
By Keith Savage