What if I told you the original Broadway run of Spamalot was seen by more than 2,000,000 people and your mother was a hamster?
Monty Python's multi-award winning Spamalot – a theatrical re-work of a conglomeration of their own classic screenplays – opened in Brisbane's QPAC last night.
Eric Idle's script and lyrics are modern-day comic genius – no one has bested the troupe's contribution to comedy in fifty years. The listed genre of musical comedy would be more aptly termed 'silly buggers with rippingly good songs'. Think panto meets Python.
No fewer than four top-drawer Australians share billing credits. Jon English and Simon Gallaher (King Arthur and Patsy respectively) renewed their on-stage partnership which dates back to Pirates Of Penzance. Both clearly relish the roles and their familiar-to-each other interaction comes off very naturally, which must make that aspect a dream to direct.
No lesser lead than Julie Anthony has been coaxed out of retirement — not that you'd ever guess — to play Lady Of The Lake. Like her colleagues, whose bios don't list comedy at the top of their credits, she delivered all the timing, winks, audience nods with aplomb, but the Brisbane audience was luckiest when she shifted seamlessly from debauched medieval sing-a-long to world-class chanteuse in a heartbeat.
And then there's Frank Woodley. The only comedian on stage played the very wet Sir Robin, the very rude French Taunter and the very verbose Brother Maynard. Woodley is a first-rate comic in his own right and with the advantage of Idle's script, the audience was regularly sent into spasms. Ad-libbing and facial twitches all under a Vic Beckham bob hairdo were outrageously funny. I can't imagine anyone more suited to this role of Robin.
There was to be no carrying of the less-seasoned members of the cast. Steve Hirst, Chris Kellett and Dash Kruck all owned their roles with the flamboyance required of knights and townsfolk playing silly sods — a personal highlight was Kruck's reprise of his sad-face — from A Tribute Of Sorts (Google it, there's an excellent QTC promo clip) — for the forlorn, entrapped and sexually-confused Prince Herbert.
Spamalot at QPAC is the vision of Harvest Rain's Tim O'Connor. He has an uncanny eye for filling a stage to bursting with colour, movement and song — but never to excess. His direction of cast and ensemble was spot on. No surprises then, that at the after-show function Woodley took trouble to take to the podium and acknowledge O'Connor's single-minded, professional direction – one can imagine no easy task considering the talent and script taking care of themselves.
Of course there was a standing ovation from the packed 1,600-strong audience. You'd expect nothing else for a cast of this calibre, fish slapping, tortured identities, ridiculous lyrics — and a very, very insulting Frenchman.