Spamalot (And Some Etiquette Grumbling)
Sunday night, Prairie and I headed downtown to the Paramount to see Spamalot. We’d been hoping to get a chance to see it ever since it opened on Broadway, had happily memorized the soundtrack after it was released, and snapped up tickets as soon as we heard that the touring company was coming through Seattle. We even sprung for expensive seats, on the main floor of the theater, rather than our usual far more affordable seating (somewhere in the vicinity of the Scottish highlands).
First things first: overall, it was a good evening. We enjoyed the show, and it was a lot of fun to get to see the sets, staging, and choreography — all the bits that just can’t be conveyed through a soundtrack album. The jokes were fun (even though, as long time Monty Python fans, there weren’t really any major surprises in store), and seeing how they translated some of the film’s sight gags to live theater was a real treat (specifically, the Black Night’s dismemberment and the attack of the Killer Rabbit). The performances on the whole were quite acceptable, with the standout performers being Patsy and Sir Robin, with the Lady of the Lake and Lancelot not terribly far behind them.
However, the night was not without a few disappointments. Firstly, a few that are pretty much connected directly to the show itself:
Arthur forgot his lines! Well, okay, line (singular), but still. Goofing up the lyrics to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” the opening number of the second act, to the point where not only does the line not rhyme, but it doesn’t even quite make sense anymore, isn’t exactly impressive. Overall, both Prairie and I got the feeling that Arthur was well and truly ready for this run to be over — his entire performance came across like he was bored, tired of the part, and just sleepwalking his way through it. We were quite unimpressed.
Also at the beginning of the second act during “ALotBSoL,” and possibly triggered by Arthur’s flub, one of the nights (the tallest of the troupe) stumbled and fell, landing on the umbrella that was being used as a prop, breaking it so that it didn’t open and close properly for the rest of the number.
The sound in the theater (or at least in our seats) was horrendous! It was balanced so horridly that rather than sounding like the actor’s voices, only louder, everyone sounded like they were being piped through the old PA system used for assemblies at your elementary school. On top of that, it was mixed so poorly that during the company numbers, the principal voices (Arthur, the Lady of the Lake, etc.) got completely buried in the ensemble, and you couldn’t hear them at all.
Overall, as much as we like Spamalot — and we do — this was far from our favorite show at the Paramount. In hindsight, if we could go back and re-do things, we’d have been quite happy with using the cheap seat tickets for Spamalot, and splurging for floor seats for Young Frankenstein.
Then, of course, there’s the frustrations you find when you have to deal with the general public.
It’s truly distressing how few people think of theater as Theater (with a capital ‘t’). Both Prairie and I were brought up to see a night out at a show as something special. It’s not something that happens every day (or even every week or month), and so it’s not something to be taken completely casually. It is something that should be dressed for: I’d argue for good business work clothes at the minimum, if you’re not actually going to take the time to dress up. Above all, jeans and t-shirts? Not acceptable!
While we’re eternally grateful that most people have finally figured out that cell phones should be turned off (or at least silenced), if you have to hold your iPhone at arms length to snap a shot of you and your (jeans-clad) buds before the show, and end up waving the phone in front of the face of the person sitting beside you, coming perilously close to knocking them in the head…maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t be fiddling with the damn phone.
While she probably isn’t, if your girlfriend is so stupid that she just won’t understand any of the humor without your explaining it to her…then she’s just going to have to suffer and cope with a little confusion. Keeping up a running commentary for the entire show consisting of saying the jokes along with the performers on stage and then explaining each joke, why it was funny, and which Monty Python episode or movie it originally came from, making sure to point out any notable differences between its original incarnation and its current stage version…is NOT acceptable. Honestly, I’m surprised Prairie just didn’t smack the guy midway through Act I (except for the fact that she knows how to comport herself in public).
One last thing: a standing ovation should be given for extraordinarily good performances. Not for every performance you happen to be at. Not for slightly above average performances. And certainly not for performances with flubbed lines, broken props, and bad sound. I’ve noticed this trend a lot lately, where it’s more rare to be at a performance that doesn’t get a standing ovation than to be at a performance that does. That’s really not how this is supposed to work, folks. A standing ovation is something special, to be reserved for those truly stand-out performances, not used for every performance you bother to attend.
People really amaze me. And not in good ways.
So, wrapping things up: people suck, can’t (or won’t) behave properly in public, and most of them really shouldn’t be let out of the house. The show, while suffering from some very notable rough spots, was generally very enjoyable, though in the end, not quite the experience we were hoping for. For another view, here’s Prairie’s look at the evening.