MANILA — Who says theater needs to be high-brow?
“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which opens Friday at the RCBC Plaza in Makati, is as silly as it gets but it’s also thoroughly enjoyable, a laugh-out-loud musical that fully embraces its outrageousness.
You don’t even need to be familiar with its source material, the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” to get in on the jokes, although fans of the British comedy troupe will definitely relish watching some of the movie’s more popular sketches re-enacted live onstage.
(As an added bonus, the musical’s main anthem, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” was taken from another well-loved Monty Python movie, “The Life of Brian.”)
As suggested by the title, this Tony winner for Best Musical is a parody of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as they search for the Holy Grail upon instructions from God. In their journey, they meet several obstacles, including a killer rabbit, the towering knight of Ni, and a taunting Frenchman.
In addition to these classic Monty Python sketches, playwright and original Python member Eric Idle also included self-conscious theatrical references, which should please theater fans, with numbers such as “The Song That Goes Like This” and “Find Your Grail,” which were deliberately composed to sound like generic, by-the-numbers Broadway showstoppers.
With its previous success with another zany musical “Forbidden Broadway,” Upstart Productions may have found its niche in the local theater scene. Directors Joel Trinidad and Nicky Trivino have assembled a fine cast of musical theater actors with impeccable comic reflexes who are fully committed to this brand of straight-faced absurdity.
Moreover, they were seemingly given the freedom to ad lib and add comedic touches — wait for the jabs on Justin Bieber and Britney Spears — which were not lost on Thursday’s preview audience.
Even Upstart’s notoriously low-budget sets work well here and adds to the production’s self-deprecating tone.
Lorenz Martinez, who was hilarious in “Forbidden Broadway,” once again hams it up as King Arthur while displaying effortless vocal chops, while Rachel Alejandro channels pop divas like Cher, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey as the enchanting, Francis Libiran-costumed Lady of the Lake.
Featured actors Domileo Espejo (as Arthur’s sidekick Patsy) and George Schulze (as Sir Robin) have mastered the dead-pan delivery even in the funniest of situations — and with pleasant voices to boot.
But this show truly belongs to Noel Rayos and Reb Atadero, who both play multiple roles. Rayos has played riotous roles before, notably in “The Producers” and “La Cage Aux Folles,” and his antics still elicit uncontrollable laughter. Atadero, meanwhile, cuts loose here and geeks out on the inanity of it all.
While “Spamalot” won the Tony for Best Musical, don’t expect anything more than a rollicking good time and a brisk two-hour escape to Medieval times. And just like the canned meat referenced in its title, the comedy is also oddly comforting and delicious in its own way.
“Monty Python’s Spamalot” runs until August 12 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.