Having watched the publicity that surrounded the West End debut of musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (based of course on the 1988 movie of the same name), the big-name cast, the lavish sets, the TV spots, you would be forgiven for thinking that the show was fresh out of the box, but it’s actually been doing the rounds since 2004.
It is an unusual choice for adaptation, while the film is remembered reasonably affectionately it was never an out and out smash and has been reduced to a vague memory 26 years on.
In a nutshell it’s the tale of two seasoned con men and their attempt to hoodwink a millionaire heiress in the spectacular South of France.
Whilst an amiable enough evening at the theatre it offers nothing new and manages to distinguish itself only by being one of the most old-fashioned (and not in a good way) and sexist pieces of theatre currently on stage. It’s like a bad 70’s sitcom but this time with expensive sets and a top-rate cast.
It’s greatest redeeming feature is Robert Lindsay in the central role. Despite the rumours of his difficulty to work with, he really does milk this for all its worth. Without him it would be unwatchable.
Pleasant to look at but not a lot more.
Spamalot tells the legendary tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the (very, very,) Round Table and their search for the Holy Grail. It is, of course based on the legendary Monty Python movie and doubtless that is the reason people (and by that I mean an abnormally high number of hetero-men who are rarer than hens teeth at musicals) are here.
From the Knights who say “Ni”, to the Black Knight who loses his arm with a “’tis but a scratch”, it plays right into the hands of the Python fans. And by the end you wonder if there’s any other way to ride around the countryside except by prancing around banging together coconut shells.
Steven Pacey (a veteran of Blake’s 7!) has a fine, strong voice, and makes an appealingly buffoonish King Arthur and his number I’m All Alone, raises a lot of laughs despite being gate-crashed by the rest of the cast. Todd Carty is Arthur’s put-upon servant, Patsy. He’s on stage a lot but he doesn’t exactly do a lot, however, he gets to sing the classic Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
Now to Bonnie Langford, (the marmite of British musical theatre due to some annoyingly precocious performances as a child,) now I’ve seen Langford before so it was no (pleasing)surprise that her comic timing is excellent and her singing voice could raise the roof. She showcases an amazing range of vocal styles here and applause to her for her willingness to send herself up.
The supporting cast were absolutely fantastic and the strength of their voices, acting and dancing made the musical a joy.
There are up to date references a-plenty and even a nod to today’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day! Spamalot makes for an energetic, visually stimulating, silly night’s entertainment. It really is laugh a minute and it’s breakneck pace and short length leave you wanting more. There was also a blink and you’ll miss him appearance by Sylvester McCoy – though, so brief was his stage time that as I write this I am doubting that it actually happened!