It’s said that the word spam, as opposed to Spam, was inspired by Monty Python’s legendary skit about a restaurant in which every entree came with Spam, like it or not. The perfect word to describe something you didn’t ask for but can’t avoid. And now comes Spamalot, the Broadway hit crafted mostly by Python member Eric Idle that opened last night at the Ordway Center in St. Paul. My suggestion is that you don’t avoid it.
In fact, I suggest you get up close so you can hear the rapid-fire British enunciations. Mostly, it’s a reverent replay of the best scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, almost line for line in such sketches as the battle with the hapless if hopeful black knight and, my personal favorite, the Holy Hand Grenade recitation (“With it thou mayest blow thine enemies to tiny bits.”). It’s fun, if not surprising (unless you’ve managed to go through adolescence without seeing the film). The handful of new songs, however, are actually quite good, taking on, in a kind of Mel Brooks tradition, everyone from god to gays to Jews. In the end, even if you’ve memorized all the lines like the Lord’s Prayer, it’s worth going simply because if it’s a rehash it’s at least a rehash of some of the sharpest comedy ever written, superior to almost anything else on Broadway today.