If you’re a fan of Monty Python you will definitely want to see Spamalot, which is currently playing at the 5th Avenue Theater through May 2. If you want to share your enjoyment of Monty Python with your kids, well – if they’re younger than 13 you may want to start somewhere else. There is some risqué content that isn’t appropriate for younger audiences.
Spamalot is based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and while it contains most of the great gags from the movie the story is actually quite different and large sections of the musical are wholly new. It still focuses on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the Holy Grail. There is discussion of the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow (African and European), peasants who don’t recognize a king just because a watery tart threw a sword at him, and the Knights Who Say Ni!
In addition to these classic bits the Lady of the Lake is a notable and welcome addition to Spamalot. Some of the new scenes from the second act, particularly “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway (if you don’t have any Jews)” and “His Name is Lancelot” demonstrate that, after almost 40 years of milking Monty Python’s success (his joke), author Eric Idle is not afraid of dangerous comedy that pushes the boundaries of good taste as well as skewering stereotypes.
It’s the new material in Spamalot that makes me feel compelled to warn younger children away from it. Generally I wouldn’t recommend Monty Python for kids under 10 because a lot of their best jokes work on an intellectual level beyond the slapstick and I want them to get those jokes as well as the fish slapping. But my primary concern for kids with Spamalot is the bawdy sexual content in the new material. There are several points throughout the production where the women of the ensemble support the Lady of the Lake scantily clad as her “Laker girls”, or Vegas showgirls, or simply walking across the stage in lingerie to punctuate a joke in a song. Between this burlesque and some salty language I would definitely rate this show PG-13 and recommend parents think twice about what their kids are ready for before bringing them along.
Having said that, I do want to emphasize the incredible quality of the 5th Avenue’s production. Not only are they working with the original sets and costumes from the Broadway production but the entire cast have incredibly powerful voices. Eric Idle himself attended the performance I saw and after the show praised the entire production as being on par with the original. Laura Griffith as the Lady of the Lake is a particular standout. Her several renditions of “The Song That Goes Like This” require an incredible vocal range and she sings it in a variety of styles where the singing itself is the joke. A lesser performer would not have been able to pull it off. Louis Hobson as Dennis and Sir Galahad is hilarious singing along with The Lady of the Lake. Greg McCormick Allen as Arthur’s faithful servant Patsy, Matt Owen as the cowardly Sir Robin, Dane Stokinger as Sir Lancelot, and Joshua Carter as Prince Herbert all have their moments to shine and, of course, Allen Fitzpatrick as King Arthur has to carry the show, which he does with bombastic appeal. There is a lot more I could call out (including the many Seahawks and 12th Man references) but I don’t want to give away too many of the jokes. Suffice it to say you should make an effort to see this production of Spamalot and, if you have older kids, introduce them to the insane humor of Monty Python.