Review: CLO succeeds in quest for a 'Spamalot' that stands out a lot

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It’s not your parent’s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and it’s not your ancestor’s Arthurian Legend, either.

Pittsburgh CLO’s “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which is playing at the Benedum Center through Aug. 3, is two hours of absurd, outlandish humor that will leave the audience laughing and reciting lyrics well past bows.

'Monty Python's Spamalot'

Where: Pittsburgh CLO at Benedum Center, Downtown.

When: Through Aug. 3. 8 p.m. through Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $10-$70.75. 412-456-6666 or

Since its Broadway debut in 2005, Eric Idle and John Du Prez’s “Spamalot,” which was “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture,” has brought something new and special to the table — and the Knights of the Round Table. The show earned 14 Tony nominations and three wins, including best musical and best director for Mike Nichols.

Directed and choreographed by Marc Robin for CLO, the show brings us the classic Arthurian Legend, with a twist. “Spamalot” follows King Arthur in his quest for the Holy Grail as he travels with his servant and knights, including Sir Robin, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad and Sir Bedevere. All the while, they meet killer rabbits, knights who say “Ni” and peasants who insist they are “not dead yet,” despite a widespread, life-threatening plague.

Quirky is an understatement, but it should be expected that anything “lovingly ripped off” from John Cleese’s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” will be boisterous and filled with British balderdash and tongue-in-cheek humor. The show manages to make a mockery of almost everything, from homosexuality to religion (thanks to a number entirely devoted to Jews on Broadway), class systems and theater itself. “Spamalot” is not for the stoic or politically correct.

Mr. Idle and Mr. Du Prez do a great job of adapting the 1975 film into a modern musical, with many pop culture references, from the Los Angeles Laker Girls to Andrew Lloyd Webber. This especially seemed to keep the audience engaged, when the cast wasn’t physically in the audience engaging them themselves.

Pittsburgh’s cast, though, especially drove an already-funny and already-energetic show home. A cast of 20 -- many roles are double- or triple-cast -- exhibited a wide array of talent and hilarity as they toggled from absurd character to absurd character, all the while making extravagant costume changes. 

A standout was Elizabeth Stanley as the Lady of the Lake, who dubs Arthur as King of the Britons, recruits the knights with her “Laker Girls” and then emerges in Act II with a hilarious number, “The Diva’s Lament,” when she complains that she’s spent too much time off stage. Ms. Stanley delivers a stellar performance with some incredible belting.

Throughout the show, the audience howled and applauded, enthused by the performance. It may not be your parent’s “Spamalot,” but it latches on to the classic bits (like the infamous coconuts that pound together to sound like horses) and numbers like “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Pittsburgh CLO delivers a show that mixes old and new, leaving the audience asking for more.

Kate Mishkin: or 412-263-1352.

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