I was a little reluctant to go see the new revival of “Spamalot” on Broadway Monday night. I felt like I knew the show, and wasn’t so excited. I was wrong. The new version is energized by a terrific cast including many Tony winners and Broadway favorites like James Monroe Iglehart, Christopher Fitzgerald, Michael Urie, and Leslie Kritzer. It was like medicine for the soul, hilariously funny and expertly assembled by director Josh Rhodes.
Also in this ensemble group of musical comedians and dancers is Ethan Slater, who plays 8 parts effortlessly changing gears. His compact frame suggests he might have been a gymnast and his comic face assures him a long career on Broadway.
But Slater, who previously starred in the title role of “Spongebob: Square Pants” on Broadway, is now finishing up the two films tied to the Broadway smash, “Wicked.” That’s where he met his famous girlfriend, Ariana Grande, who stars in the movie with Cynthia Erivo. (You may have read all about this in the tabloids.)
Anyway, there was Ariana Grande last night in person, sitting across the aisle from me. Her companions included mega pop hit writer Max Martin, “SNL” star Bowen Yang — who’s in the movie, the film’s assistant choreographer, Will Loftis.
Ariana Grande has an ironic name because she is tiny, with beautiful features, and a huge smile. We chatted during intermission. She said, “I’ve seen this show five times.” The reason was obvious. In the second act, Slater steals the show — which isn’t easy since everyone on stage is busy doing that.
What was she doing with Max Martin? In the past they’ve collaborated on about two dozen released tracks and two dozen unreleased ones. They’re working together now on new music since “Wicked” — in its two parts — is almost wrapped up.
“Wait til you see it,” she said, eyes twinkling. “I think you’re going to like it.” And the two parts? “You’ll see, we needed it.”
When the curtain came down, I noticed Ariana gave the same enthusiastic applause to all the cast members, not just Slater. But she would have been right to give him a fist pump, anyway.
Nice Broadway night, all by accident. Before the show, while I waited outside for my tickets, actress Elle Fanning scooted up 44th St. No one recognized her, but I did. She pointed to the marquee next to the St. James Theater, to the Helen Hayes Theater, where she will make her Broadway debut next month in a play called “Appropriate.” Sarah Paulson and Corey Stoll are among the cast. “We’re in rehearsal right now!” she told me with a big, delightful smile.
Broadway is buzzing! As they say in “Spamalot”: “Always look on the bright side of life.”
PS Leslie Kritzer had better get a Tony Award next June for this performance. She send everyone home on a puffy white cloud!
PS Here’s the performance I told Ariana Grande that stuck with me. She can sainnng.