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Pythonostalgia!

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In Spamalot it's often hard to tell whether the stypefyingly simple lyrics and false rhymes ("So be strong / Keep right on / To the end / Of your song / Do not fail / Find your Grail / Find your Grail / Find your Grail") a joke on the banality of such songs? Or is it the real thing, a straightforwardly banal inspirational? Which is not to say that a song can't also be what it makes fun of — that a faux-inspirational song can't be inspirational and incorrigibly, addictively, sing-alongable. Remember that "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" became the anthem for English football clubs. That's the lovely thing about parody: nothing is so silly that someone won't take it seriously.

THE BIG JOKE

The big joke in Spamalot is that the whole thing has been reconfigured for a Vegas extravaganza — it'll feel right at home in Wynn Las Vegas, especially when King Arthur warns, "Remember, gentlemen: what happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot" — or, who'd have imagined it?, a cruise show. An audience member is brought on stage; confetti festoons the crowd; there's everything but a conga line out of the theater.

All this, and the expert work of Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, Hank Azaria and Ramirez, well and truly earned Spamalot last year's prize for Best Musical. And it may well sweep the Olivier Awards next spring. Which is fine by me, since I'm as fond of saucy Broadway musicals as of silly-smart British TV comedy. If an impudent young satire like Monty Python and the Holy Grail should mellow into a fat and happy Spamalot, that's just the normal lifespan of transgressive pop culture: first to be dismissed as shocking, then to be accepted as trailblazing and finally to be cherished in dewy memory. The Idle show returns the Python troupe to their music-hall roots, and is a spiffy entertainment on its own — near as pleasing as it is pleased with itself.

So am I a fan of Spamalot? I am, I am, I am, a lot.

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