Review: Spamalot ****

Jodie Prenger in Spamalot.
Jodie Prenger in Spamalot.
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At The Alhambra, Bradford

THERE are quite a few surprises sprung during Eric Idle’s hilarious Monty Python homage.

The first, sadly, is the news that Phill Jupitus won’t be taking on the lead role of King Arthur on the opening night in Bradford. This is quite an eyebrow raiser since he is, after all, one of the key stars of the show.

The producers promise he will return to the stage during his run at The Alhambra, in the meantime they replaced him with James Gaddas who’s one of those actors you’ll have seen in virtually every TV comedy and popular drama you could name. He does a very capable job too.

Meanwhile, the real star of the show, Jodie Prenger, is present as Lady of the Lake. So what’s the surprise? Well, it’s the fact that she’s doing Spamalot at all. Not that there’s anything wrong with this musical, in fact it’s brilliant. But it doesn’t do the former Oliver! star justice.

Just drink in that booming voice and dare to deny she should be taking the lead in Evita or the Sound of Music. It should be something, anything, which gives her more scope than playing a comedy role on this UK tour.

Again, there’s no shame in playing the Lady of the Lake. It’s a great part with a handful of big numbers but this remains something of a supporting role. The I’d Do Anything talent show winner is knockout, and deserves a show where she takes top billing.

None of which should detract from the genius that saturates this production.

Unlike other derivative shows, this one has successfully rebooted classic/old comedy gobbets and created something of a modern masterpiece. Tongue placed firmly in cheek, Spamalot pokes a finger in the ribs of Britishness, religion, society, even the genre of musicals itself.

The comedy timing required is razor sharp and the delivery of lines is spot on - just marvel at the natural and understated performances of ex-EastEnders star Todd Carty and Simon Lipkin as Sir Galahad.

This is slick musical theatre presented as silly nonsense and, as a result, is an absolute joy to experience. But perhaps the biggest surprise is that you don’t have to be a Monty Python devotee to appreciate this. Although, admittedly, it does help.

Rod McPhee

Until Sat, The Alhambra, Morley Stret, Bradford, 7.30pm, Sat mat 2.30pm, £12.50 to £34.50, Tel: 01274 432000. www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

EXTRACT: A scene from Calyx.

Women lead way at Leeds’s own Phoenix Dance Theatre