Friday, October 20, 2006

A Tale Of Two Musicals

Two very different theatrical experiences this week. On Wednesday night I caught a performance of Monty Python's Spamalot at the Palace Theatre. I must confess I was looking forward to this, having rather fallen for all the Broadway-related hype, but I was really let down by the show. Though I did laugh in places, on the whole I found it overlong, repetitive and a little boring. It's not that I dislike Python, the opposite in fact, but everything that made them interesting is absent from this retread through the Holy Grail. I know they make no claims otherwise, tagging it as a "loving rip-off" but it seemed so lazy. The (very American) audience were applauding before half the characters even spoke, people were chanting along with the lines and a crowbarred-in rendition of Always Look On the Bright Side turned into a very cheesy sing-along. I was talking to Mark Ravenhill on the interval and he seemed as bemused as I was so at least I wasn't alone in feeling like the only sober guest at a very rowdy party.

Far, far better was Caroline, Or Change at the National last night. Lisa and I went along to the opening night, neither of us with particularly high expectations - Tony Kushner's musical about a black maid and her Jewish employers in 1960s Louisiana sounded very worthy on paper. But we were both completely blown away. This is that rarest of things, a musical that deals with social issues in an intelligent and engaging way, with characters who are well-rounded and believeable as people. It was a euphoric and intense production, with a cast who were truly faultless, not a mediocre vocal performance among them. Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. Very tempted to see it again.

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