Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 5, 2008


The Bushnell, Hartford
through 9/7/08
By Shera Cohen

There’s one really big thing wrong about “Spamalot” at the Bushnell – only five performances. Given that one fault, audiences have no choice but to fill the seats immediately and to the rafters to experience one of the most outrageous, creative, and funniest musicals ever.

To have remembered and enjoyed the Monty Python series or movies means instant love of “Spamalot,” because it’s more of the same along with music and funky lyrics, cartoon-like sets, costumes from every century (who cares if this is supposedly the Middle Ages), cheeky special effects, and this time it’s all in fabulous Technicolor. Nothing is off-limits – sex, politics, death, or religion. The monk and nun sensual dance is a hoot. To have never seen Python makes little difference. Audiences need only bring open minds, funny bones, and expectations of exaggeration and camp to thoroughly enjoy the play, at least enough to see it once a year.

The story is that of King Arthur, his knights, the Lady of the Lake, and search for the Holy Grail. Ahh, sounds familiar, from books of old. From that basic plot are twists and turns to Casino Camelot, “a very expensive forest,” and Broadway. Blatantly hysterical running jokes are poked at many musicals: i.e. “Fiddler,” “West Side Story,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Les Miz,” and “Phantom.” The knights especially like Mel Brooks and especially dislike Sondheim and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The actors are constant hams, which could give the expectation that the singing skills might not be equal to the shtick. Wrong. There are some wonderful strong voices, in particular Christopher Sutton at Prince Herbert doing a lovely falsetto. Except for those playing Arthur and Lady, all of the actors have at least three roles each. It wasn’t until after the standing ovation to boisterous audience cheers that this reviewer had time to read the playbill. Two of the best acted characters are Sir Lancelot and The French Taunter. What do you know – Patrick Heusinger portrays both.

Ending with an audience sing-along to a reprised “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” it is clear that “Spamalot” shines bright.