GALAVANT Review: ABC’s Madcap Midseason Musical

     January 3, 2015

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If you’ve watched ABC at all in the past several months, you’ll already know something of their new single-camera series Galavant.  It’s a musical (of sorts) packed into a comedy format (of sorts) that takes its plot cues from The Princess Bride, and its thematic guidance from Mel Brooks.  This oddball creation comes from Dan Fogelman (The Neighbors), with the help of famous film composer Alan Menken (creator of every song you know from Disney in your past) and Menken’s lyricist cohort Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid and many others).  Hit the jump for whether you should watch, or just go to Medieval Times.

galavant-joshua-sasseGalavant follows the adventures of the dashing knight — Galavant (Joshua Sasse) — as he attempts to rescue his lady love, Madalena (Mallory Jansen) from the clutches of the evil King Richard (Timothy Omundson).  But early on there’s a subversion to this trope, and instead, Galavant teams up with his squire Sid (Luke Youngblood) and Isabella (Karen David), a Princess looking to save her parents from King Richard’s dungeons.

Galavant is fast-paced, irreverent (far more so than expected for an 8 p.m. time slot), and very, very silly.  For the most part, it embraces that silliness, and plays up to it through meta humor and winking satire.  It also doesn’t shy away from homages to similar works that came before it, from the aforementioned Princess Bride to Monty Python.

Appearing as if it was filmed on the leftover set of ABC’s ill-fated (but underrated) fantasy-themed series The QuestGalavant is not a show that will be lauded for its production values.  But all of that plays into the series’ nod to the fact that it’s not meant to be a sweeping fairy tale production, but a send-up of one.

As for it being a musical, that aspect may be a polarizing one.  But the familiar lilt of the interludes are short, sophomoric, and often used in place of exposition, making it friendly for the musical-reluctant. (And never have “previously ons” been more entertaining).

The standouts of Galavant are not Gal himself or the princess, but Omundson as the charmingly hapless — yet also ruthless — King Richard, and Vinnie Jones as his Kingsguard, Gareth.  Omundson and Jones hit their comedic notes just right: never too serious, yet fully embracing their roles.  There are a host of celebrity guests sprinkled throughout the show’s eight episodes, as well (including Ricky Gervais as Xanax the wizard, Anthony Stewart Head as a knight, and John Stamos as Sir Jean Hamm), but the cameos have varying degrees of success.  ABC might not have trusted that Galavant could stand on its own without the guest stars, but its core cast is capable and — most importantly — likable.

Galavant is an experiment for ABC, and it’s so strange that it’s hard to know how viewers will react to it.  (My guess: more of a cult favorite than an all-out hit, despite a recent resurgence in musicals).  Having seen most of the first six episodes available for screening, I can say with confidence that how you feel about Sunday’s premiere will hold throughout the series.  But love it or leave it, Galavant is a goofy entry to the midseason schedule that is refreshing, at least, as something that may not be new, but at least feels different.

Galavant premieres with two back-to-back, half-hour episodes on Sunday, January 4th at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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