Okay, so it might not be able to top the world’s fascination with all things Frozen, but ABC’s Galavant–a bold, quirky musical TV series–is pretty epic. While most musical TV collaborations disappear into the ether, I must admit that the pilot was impressive with its clever songs and light-hearted, well played humor. In fact, I cannot sing its praises enough:
Yes, it’s true the jokes are lame,
with innuendos not quite tame,
but all the same, I urge you to watch
Aptly described as a “fairy tale cliche”, our story follows the misadventures of our titular hero, Galavant, blessed with every manly value and a knack for monologue-songs. Unfortunately, he’s not so lucky when it comes to love, and after he is betrayed by his former lover, Madalena, Galavant drinks his days away as a washed-up hero. That is, until Princess Isabella of Valencia shows up, urging Galavant back to action to help her free her homeland from the clutches of the villainous King Richard–who also happens to be Madalena’s husband.
Spurned by the possibility of winning his old love back by taking out King Richard, Galavant suits up to save the day once more–though the plot promises to be twisty and immensely turny for our would-be hero.
Okay so Galavant isn’t here to reinvent the musical wheel or subvert fairy tale tropes–and it certainly is not the first attempt at a medieval musical comedy. In many ways it is a spiritual cousin of classics such as Robin Hood Men in Tights, The Princess Bride, and Monty Python’s Spamalot.
But what Galavant does do well is hit at what we (generally) seem to love about musical theater: it’s got that perfect blend of ear-worm music, snarky lyrics, and a cast that has chemistry.
Composer Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, etc. etc) and lyricist Glenn Slater (Tangled) make a winning combination with Menken’s tunes and Slater’s brand of light-hearted humor. And while that main theme song is slowly becoming an overplayed, over-hyped marketing tool for ABC, it pretty succinctly demonstrates the strength of their collaboration. Again, some of it includes corny, groan-worthy one-liners, but I couldn’t stop laughing during this opening montage alone.
Other songs of note include King Richard’s charmingly bloody monologue-song and “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever”, one of the most original and fun love-hate songs I have heard in recent memory. After all, nothing screams romantic like: You’re growing on me/Just like mold.
Fortunately, Galavant’s strong music is bolstered by a cast with genuine chemistry. Arguably, Timothy Omundson as the foppish, fussy and sometimes frightening King Richard steals the girl and the show. Omundson plays Richard as weak but cruel, often put down by his demanding wife, but still genuinely interested in pleasing her–at the expense of other people’s lives, of course. But it’s all part of his charm, really.
Karen David as Princess Isabella is another character to keep an eye on–especially as she drags Galavant out of his stupor and starts marching him down the road towards daring-do and hopefully the rescue of her kingdom. Her every eye-roll is well-delivered, and her drive to save her kingdom is the perfect balance to Galavant’s unheroic mien.
The rest of the cast seems pretty spot on; I’m eager to see if we’ll hear more of Madalena’s side of the story, or if there is some grand plot in the works. She is, after all, stringing along both a powerful husband and a jilted lover–who knows, maybe it was her plan all along for some greater purpose; I expect a diva-villain song in the near future. (And with Menken’s history with The Little Mermaid who knows?)
Overall, Galavant is not here to necessarily change musical television, or have you reexamining fairy tale formulas, but it is here to deliver a fun, unexpected journey to follow–at least, until Once Upon a Time is back on air.