Spermalot: The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Ethan Angelica
August 21, 2009
Each year at FringeNYC, I play a little game: I attempt to find the campiest, goofiest, most outlandish show I can, and get myself a pair of tickets. The Fringe is the Fringe, after all, so there's no better place to see the best of the strangest. And, with the promise of puppet gametes, a giant walking turd, and a page from tenth grade health, I had high hopes for Spermalot: The Musical. Sadly, the show did not live up to expectations. With a poor execution, a plot that barely hangs together, and hackneyed jokes littering the script, Spermalot is a cute diversion that ultimately disappoints.
The play takes the Camelot tale and places it inside a womb, with a touch of Avenue Q-esque puppetry for spice. Arthur is now King of Spermatagonia, and he and his knights search for Ova Eggevere Benedict, who, by her own admission, has "got to get laid." In their quest for fertilization, they meet the aptly-named Red, Green, and Black Knights, have a run-in with a Turd Monster, compete in Vagina's Got Talent (where the audience vote doesn't really appear to matter), and finally conceive. All of it seems very cute and witty, which it is, in a puerile fashion. The jokes run the gamut from worn ("searching for the Great White Whale, Moby Dick") to the gross (the audience is sprayed with water as a character screams, "I'm coming!"), and none really serves to advance the already paper-thin plot. If anything, the show feels like a cabaret of sketches and iffy songs that vaguely resemble the Knights of the Round Table.
Unfortunately, the execution does not help the already-difficult material. Director Thatcher Williams does not keep consistency among his cast, allowing a few members to soar, and many to fall. Morgan Beary and Karen Swanson's ingeniously-designed sperm puppets and costumes are poorly handled, and future productions would do well to employ a puppetry consultant to ensure that mouths move in time with lines. Yet, there are a few positives along the way. Harmonies are tight and, while individual songs may be uneven, group numbers always sound full. Amy Burgmaier's voice and quirky characterizations are a high point of the evening, and David Brooks's bluesy "I'm Chlamydia" is a committed and fun hit.
A few cast members admit in their bios that Spermalot came about after a few nights of drinking and scribbling. It has that sense. The camp quality of the concept is high, and, with some additional time and effort expended on all ends, the show could have an interesting and fun cabaret life. In its present form, however, it's just hard to watch.