ABC’s new musical comedy is “a real butt-clencher”

Described by its composer Alan Menken as a “full 22-minute musical each week,” ABC’s newest TV show “Galavant” has piqued the interest of many even before its premiere. Is it like “Spamalot?” Is the premise similar to that of “The Princess Bride?” Well-known Disney veterans Menken and Dan Fogelman are at the front of this medieval musical, but “Galavant” won’t remind you of any film from your childhood.

Critics have had mixed reviews about ABC’s latest venture — and for good reason. With cop shows and whodunit dramas reigning supreme, rankings for a musical comedy set in medieval times may not have the same reception as ABC’s Shonda Rimes power hours on Thursday nights. But with constant singing that borders on the absurd, “Galavant” will leave audiences wanting to know what farcical lyrics will come next.

Wasting no time in its story, “Galavant” opens the only way it knows how: sing-narrating our hero’s journey thus far. While some lyrics may border on the absurd, others border on some darker topics (being impaled, the plague, etc. The usual topics that concern medieval peasants and townspeople). Even if the townspeople or the royal court appear for one song each, the costumes these characters wear have had extreme thought go into them. Bright colors, a myriad of different fabrics, elaborate patterns and various cuts of fabrics can all be seen in just the first half hour of “Galavant.” With great thought put into the costume department, one may think that this musical will be true to its time.

But part of the show’s quirk is that it doesn’t necessarily follow its period. Characters sing and speak with 21st century vernacular rather than the language of medieval times. With this dialogue setting the comedic tone, “Galavant” channels “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Dance and fight numbers rival the ridiculousness seen in “Holy Grail” as well. But this musical doesn’t resemble the plot line seen in a Monty Python production.

Galavant (Joshua Sasse) goes above and beyond his heroic duties by chasing down his true love Madalena (Mallory Jansen) after she’s been forced to marry the powerful King Richard (Timothy Omundson). But upon arriving at the ceremony, Madalena turns down her love for a shot at fame and fortune. Heartbroken and with nothing to live for, Galavant sulks. For a year. While he doesn’t do a complete Miss Havisham, Galavant chooses to sulk in self-pity and copious amounts of alcohol. That is, until Princess Isabella (Karen David) of Valencia arrives.

Hoping to spare her parents’ lives from the wrath of King Richard, Princess Isabella needs Galavant’s help to save Valencia. But little does Galavant know, Isabella has been forcibly sent by King Richard to fetch our hero so he can carry out his dastardly plan: King Richard wants to kill Galavant so Madalena will finally love him rather than still pining after Galavant. But who knows how much she pines for her first love as Madalena is going to bed with the Jester by episode’s end.

The show is only a half hour long, yet ABC is airing episodes back-to-back. Maybe this could help in “Galavant’s” favor, because as some critics have pointed out, 30 minutes 22 minutes is not enough time to get emotionally connected to the characters, nor is it enough time to provide a proper climax and resolution to each story arc. However, there are some redeeming characteristics to “Galavant.” Like as the Jester sing-narrates to the audience, this is a narrative we’ve never seen before, and that’s true (for the most part). The only resemblance this new musical comedy has to the Disney film of your childhood is everyone knows the words to the song once the music begins. Guest stars galore bring in a fresh face each week to keep the comedy (and storyline) alive. The talent that is composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater know what makes a great song — even if that song has nonsensical subject matter. Lyrics that include “a real butt-clencher,” “he wowed in every way, a fairy tale cliché” and “maybe you’re not the worst thing ever,” demonstrate you don’t have to have a serious subject matter to write an entertaining and catchy song.

All in all, “Galavant” gets a solid C. With nothing similar to it currently on TV, it can certainly fill a niche for musical lovers and comedy fans alike. But, with less than a half hour to grab the audience’s attention and sing into their hearts, it’s going to be difficult for this show to deliver on the adventure and extravaganza the commercials have been promoting. Nonetheless, the humor and and not-so-subtle jokes “Galavant” has in its repertoire can only help boost the otherwise brief story arcs.

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