Spamalot

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Review by Matthew Forrest 

 The programme states that Spamalot is lovingly ripped off from the motion picture” of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Well for my money, this production is doing itself a disservice; if anything it’s enhancing the ‘Python’ legacy and introducing them to a wider audience. 

As a Python fan, you sometimes take it as a given that most people will love them and their work as much as you do. However that’s not always the case, as some people just “don’t get it” or have never seen the Python’s in action before. For die-hard fans like myself, the nay-sayers and the unacquainted, Spamalot is the perfect night out, suitably ridiculous, occasionally bewildering, but always hilarious! 

Following the plot of the film, Spamalot sees King Arthur and his faithful servant Patsy, as they attempt to enlist various brave and not so brave knights to join him at his court in Camelot. It is here that the voice of God or, more accurately Eric Idle, send Arthur and his Knights on a quest to seek out the Holy Grail. 

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As you would expect it’s absolutely bonkers: most of the set-pieces are in there, from The Knights who say Nee and Black Knight: with the welcome addition of a new character in the Lady of Lake. 

The cast are on great form: Bob Harms is excellent as the pompous, self-absorbed King Arthur, Rhys Owens is on equally good form as Patsy, a polar opposite to his master but certainly the brains of the outfit. Sarah Harlington offers a scene stealing turn as the Lady of the Lake, who has an equally inflated opinion of herself, similar to that of King Arthur. 

They are supported by a fantastic, hard-working cast with most taking on multiple roles, who are all given their moments to shine. Standout scenes include Jonathan Tweedie’s Lancelot and his daring rescue of Prince Herbert and the cast’s spectacular Knights of the Round Table routine. 

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Eric Idle, along with John du Prez have come up with catchy and funny tunes that aren’t strictly in keeping with the show. The Song That Goes Like This takes a much-needed swipe at musicals and their big defining tunes, whilst You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz, takes a well-aimed shot at celebrity culture and has been updated with numerous topical references. In addition, there is the über-camp His Name is Lancelot and of course the old faithful Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. However, it’s Sarah Harlington’s vocals on Whatever Happened To My Part? and her duet with Norton James in Lady of the Lake that really bring the house down. Harlington’s voice is phenomenal: so much power blended with her comic timing certainly make you wish her part was that bit bigger. 

Director Daniel Buckroyd has certainly got the best out of his cast, with all involved displaying a gift for comedy, and allowing room for a spot of adlibbing as well.  Some cast members just about managed to told hold it together, which really added to the fun of it all. 

I really can’t fault this wonderful show. It has everything you would want in a musical: silly, uplifting fun, catchy tunes and a sing-a-long, to boot. You really can’t ask for more. Spamalot is currently on a nationwide tour and is well worth catching when it comes to a theatre near you. 

 On at the Manchester Palace Theatre till the 11th November tickets available here

 

 

Ghost – The Musical

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Based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s 1990 smash hit film starring screen legends Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, and following the original musical interpretation which premiered at Manchester’s Opera House back in 2011, Bill Kenwright brings his new production of Ghost the Musical to the Palace Theatre.

With music by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and lyrics from Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard (whose previous credits include Alanis Morrissette’s album Jagged Little Pill) Ghost tells the story of young, loved up New Yorkers Sam (Andy Moss) and Molly (Sarah Harding). Sam is tragically murdered in the street in a robbery gone wrong, which we soon learn was organised by his close friend and work colleague Carl (Sam Ferriday). As Sam takes his last breaths he soon realises he has become stuck between two worlds, ripped away from his love too soon he realises she too is in danger and he must find a way to connect and protect her. This connection comes in the form of Oda Mae Brown (Jacqui Dubois) so called psychic and spiritual healer, or more accurately fraudster and dodgy dealer.

Harding has come under heavy criticism for her performance in the role, most notably in the opening stops on the tour, but I’m happy to say Manchester’s audience welcomed her with open arms and she gave a touching and enjoyable performance. At times her acting was a little breathy but there is no denying she has a sweet and soulful voice and the chemistry between her and Andy Moss was moving. Fair play to her for getting up on stage night after night when even the most confident of us would be hiding under a blanket eating a vat of ice cream if we’d had even half of the criticism she’s received. She has clearly worked hard to improve her performance and is determined to silence her critics.

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Andy Moss makes for a very likeable and playful Sam making his death seem all the more tragic, his commitment to protecting Molly from danger is moving and his interactions with Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois) are brilliant. Moss portrays Sam’s highs prior to his death with warmth and excels when the lows of the afterlife take hold. Dubois was born to play Oda Mae Brown, if ever they remake the film she should be first in line at the auditions, outrageous, hilarious and full of sass, she shines in this production and her fun interactions with both Sam and Molly are a joy to watch.

With a strong supporting cast including a fine performance from Sam’s sly former friend Carl (Sam Ferriday) Ghost is a highly entertaining show, with beautiful music and some clever effects you’ll laugh, quite possibly cry and definitely come away from the production wishing you’d kept up with those pottery classes!

On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 29th October, tickets available here!

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/ghost-the-musical/palace-theatre-manchester/