Monty Python's Spamalot is a musical comedy "lovingly ripped off from" the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Like the film, it is a highly irreverent parody of the Arthurian Legend, but it differs from the film in many ways, especially in its parodies of Broadway theatre. Eric Idle, a member of the Monty Python team, wrote the musical's book and lyrics and collaborated with John Du Prez on most of the music.
Idle explained the title in a February 2004 press release:
"I like the title Spamalot a lot. We tested it with audiences on my recent US tour and they liked it as much as I did, which is gratifying. After all, they are the ones who will be paying Broadway prices to see the show. It comes from a line in the movie which goes: "we eat ham, and jam and Spam a lot."
The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004–2005 season and received 14 Tony Award nominations. During its initial run of over 1500 performances it was seen by more than two million people and grossed over $175 million.
Synopsis Before the play
A recording encourages members of the audience to "let your cellphones and pagers ring willy-nilly," and comments that they should "be aware there are heavily armed knights on stage that may drag you on stage and impale you."
An historian gives a brief overview of medieval England. An idyllic Scandinavian village appears, with gaily dressed Finnish villagers singing and dancing to the "Fisch Schlapping Song." The Historian returns, irritated, and tells the frolicking Finns that he was talking about England, not Finland. The villagers disperse and the pastoral forest is immediately replaced by a dreary, dark village with penitent monks in hooded robes chanting Latin prayers and hitting themselves in the face with large Bibles. King Arthur travels the land with his servant Patsy, who follows him around banging two coconuts shells together to make the sound of horses hooves as Arthur "rides" before him, trying to recruit Knights of the Round Table to join him in Camelot ("King Arthur's Song"). He encounters a pair of sentries who are more interested in debating whether two swallows could successfully carry a coconut than in listening to the king.
Robin, a collector of plague victims, and Lance, a large, handsome and incredibly violent man, meet as Lance attempts to dispose of the sickly Not Dead Fred ("He Is Not Dead Yet"). They agree to become Knights of the Round Table together, Lance for the fighting, and Robin for the singing and the dancing.
Arthur attempts to convince a peasant named Dennis Galahad that he, Arthur, is king of England because the Lady of the Lake gave him Excalibur, the sword given only to the man fit to rule England. However, Dennis and his mother, Mrs Galahad, are political radicals and deny that any king who has not been elected by the people has any legitimate right to rule over them. To settle the issue, Arthur has the Lady of the Lake and her Laker Girls appear to turn Dennis into a knight ("Come With Me"). Cheered on by the girls ("Laker Girls Cheer"), the Lady of the Lake turns Dennis into Sir Galahad and together, they sing a generic Broadway love song ("The Song That Goes Like This"), complete with chandelier. They are joined by Sir Robin and Sir Lancelot, and together with Sir Bedevere and Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show (a knight resembling Don Quixote, who promptly apologizes and leaves), they make up the Knights of the Round Table ("All for One").
The five knights gather in Camelot, a deliberately anachronistic place resembling Las Vegas's Camelot-inspired Excalibur resort, complete with showgirls, oversized dice and the Lady of the Lake headlining the Castle in full Cher get-up ("Knights of the Round Table"/"The Song That Goes Like This (Reprise)"). In the midst of their revelry, they are contacted by God (a recording voiced by John Cleese of the original Monty Python troupe) who tells them to locate the Holy Grail. Urged on by the Lady of the Lake ("Find Your Grail"), the Knights set off. They travel throughout the land until they reach a castle, only to be viciously taunted by lewd French soldiers. They attempt to retaliate by sending them a large wooden rabbit in the style of the Trojan Horse; however, they realize after the fact that it was not as simple as leaving the rabbit and walking away — they should have hidden inside it. Defeated, they leave in a hurry when the French begin taunting them again, sending cancan dancers after them and throwing barnyard animals including cows at them ("Run Away!"). Act II
Sir Robin and his minstrels follow King Arthur and Patsy into a "dark and very expensive forest", where they are separated. King Arthur meets the terrifying but silly Knights who say Ni, who demand a shrubbery. King Arthur despairs of finding one, but Patsy cheers him up ("Always Look on the Bright Side of Life") and they find a shrubbery shortly after.
Sir Robin, after wandering the forest for some time with his minstrels ("Brave Sir Robin"), encounters The Black Knight, who scares him off, but King Arthur, who happens on the scene, more or less defeats him by cutting off both his arms and legs, impaling his still-alive torso on a door, and leaving to give the Knights their shrubbery. The Knights accept it, but next demand that King Arthur put on a musical and bring it to Broadway (in the United Kingdom, this became a West End musical; on the tour, they must put on a "Broadway musical", implying that it need only be Broadway-style, "but not an Andrew Lloyd Webber". The mere mention of his name causes everyone to cover their ears and scream in pain.). Sir Robin, who has found Arthur by this point, insists that it would be impossible for them to accomplish this next task, since you need Jews for a successful Broadway (or West End) musical ("You Won't Succeed on Broadway"), and proves his point in a wild production number filled with Fiddler on the Roof parodies, including a bottle dance like the one in Fiddler on the Roof, with Grails instead of bottles. King Arthur and Patsy promptly set off in search of Jews.
While the Lady of the Lake laments her lack of stage time ("Diva's Lament - Whatever Happened to My Part?"), Sir Lancelot receives a letter from what he assumes is a young damsel in distress. He is very surprised to find that the "damsel" is actually an embarrassingly unnattractive, effeminate young man named Prince Herbert ("Where Are You?"/"Here Are You") whose overbearing, music-hating father, the King of Swamp Castle, is forcing him into an arranged marriage. As Herbert is asking Lancelot to help him escape, the King of Swamp Castle cuts the rope that he is using to climb out of the window, and Herbert falls to his death. Lancelot is a bit puzzled at the king's actions, but it is revealed that Herbert was saved at the last minute by Lancelot's sidekick, Concord. The King asks his son how he was saved, exactly, to which Herbert replies happily with a song. But the king charges at his son with a spear, preparing to kill him. Lancelot steps in to save him, then gives a tearful, heartfelt speech about sensitivity to the king on Herbert's behalf, and Lancelot is outed as a homosexual in the process, an announcement celebrated in a wild disco number ("His Name is Lancelot").
King Arthur begins to give up hope of ever putting on the Broadway musical and laments that he is alone, even though Patsy has been with him the entire time ("I'm All Alone"). The Lady of the Lake appears and tells Arthur that he and the Knights have been in a Broadway musical all along. Patsy also reveals he is half Jewish, but didn't want to say anything to Arthur because "that's not really the sort of thing you say to a heavily-armed Christian." All that's left is for King Arthur to find the Grail and marry someone. After picking up on some not-too-subtle hints, Arthur decides to marry the Lady of the Lake after he finds the Grail ("Twice In Every Show").
Reunited with his Knights, Arthur meets Tim the Enchanter who warns them of the danger of an evil rabbit. When the rabbit bites a knight's head off, Arthur uses the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch against it, knocking down a nearby hill and revealing that the "evil rabbit" was actually a puppet controlled by a surprised puppeteer. A large stone block showing a combination of letters and numbers is also revealed. (The letters vary from show to show, but in the Broadway production and on the tour it is either A101, B101, C101 or D101. In the West End Production a word is revealed - DONE, CONE or BONE, referring to D1, C1 and B1 respectively.) After pondering the final clue, Arthur admits that they're "a bit stumped with the clue thing" and asks God to "give them a hand". A large hand points to the audience and Arthur realizes that the letters and numbers refer to a seat number in the audience. The grail is "found" (with some sleight of hand) under the seat and the person sitting in the seat is rewarded with a small trophy and a polaroid photo. ("The Holy Grail"). Arthur marries the Lady of the Lake, who reveals that her name is Guinevere; Lancelot marries Herbert (who finally has a chance to sing); and Sir Robin decides to pursue a career in musical theatre ("Act 2 Finale/Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Company Bow)"). Improvisations
Several sections in the script call for improvisation by the actors, including references to current events or local culture. These have been added during the French Taunter scene in Act I, during the Knights of Ni scene, and when the Holy Grail is found at the end of the show.
Eric Idle wrote the musical's book and lyrics and collaborated with John Du Prez on the music, except for "Knights of the Round Table" and "Brave Sir Robin", which were composed by Neil Innes for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. ("Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was originally written by Idle for the film Monty Python's Life of Brian.)
* Historian’s Introduction to Act I- Historian
* Finland/Fisch Schlapping Dance- Mayor and Company
* Monk’s Chant- Company
* King Arthur's Song- King Arthur, Patsy*
* I am Not Dead Yet- Not Dead Fred, Lance, Robin, and Bodies
* Come With Me- King Arthur, Lady of the Lake, and Laker girls
* ^Laker Girls Cheer^- Laker Girls
* The Song That Goes Like This- Sir Galahad and Lady of the Lake
* All For One- King Arthur, Patsy, Sir Robin, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad and Sir Bedevere
* Knights of the Round Table- Company
* The Song That Goes Like This (Reprise)- Lady of the Lake
* Find Your Grail- Lady of the Lake and Company
* Run Away!- Company
* The Intermission** Act II
* Historian’s Introduction to Act II- Historian
* Always Look on the Bright Side of Life- Patsy, King Arthur, Knights, and Knights of Ni
* Brave Sir Robin - Sir Robin and Minstrels
* You Won't Succeed On Broadway- Sir Robin and Ensemble
* The Diva's Lament (Whatever Happened To My Part?)- Lady of the Lake
* Where Are You?- Prince Herbert
* Here Are You- Prince Herbert
* His Name Is Lancelot- Sir Lancelot, Prince Herbert, and Ensemble
* I'm All Alone- King Arthur, Patsy, and Knights
* Twice In Every Show- Lady of the Lake and King Arthur
* The Holy Grail- King Arthur, Patsy, Sir Robin, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, Sir Bedevere, and Knights*
* Act II Finale- Company
* Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life- Company and Audience *Does not appear on the Original cast album.
**On the cast album but not in the show itself. Characters The Court of Camelot
* King Arthur: King of Britian. Has trouble counting to three. Is not very bright, but very willing.
* Sir Lancelot the Homicidally Brave: A near psychopathic knight...with a difference.
* Sir Robin, the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot: A cowardly knight well-versed in the world of musical theatre.
* Sir Dennis Galahad, The Dashingly Handsome: Formerly Dennis Galahad, a politically active peasant.
* Sir Bedevere, The Strangely Flatulent: A wise but smelly knight.
* Patsy: King Arthur's trusty servant/steed and constant companion. He is half Jewish.
* Concorde: Lancelot's trusty servant/steed. Can easily survive an arrow to the chest.
* Brother Maynard: Camelot's clergyman.
* Sir Bors: An unlucky victim of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog with a comically oversized head.
* Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show: That pretty much sums it up. Dressed as Don Quixote.
* The Lady of the Lake: An aquatic diva. Part fairy, part diva and all woman.
* Not-Dead Fred: He's not dead yet. He’s getting better. Okay, now he's dead. I'm not dead yet.
* Robin's Lead Minstrel: Doesn't really know when to shut up.
* The King of Swamp Castle (aka Herbert's Father): A hardhearted, moneygrubbing king who hates music and his gay son.
* Prince Herbert: His son. Loves to sing, and is about as butch as Minnie Mouse.
* French Taunter: A French soldier who enjoys taunting.
* The Black Knight: A psychotic, "invincible" knight who will fight even after all his limbs have been cut off.
* The Head Knight who says "Ni!": The very tall leader of the most feared cult in the land: the dreaded Knights who say "Ni!". Enjoys shrubberies. Can not stand the word "it." When Arthur finds the shrubbery, the Head Knight says the Knights who say "Ni!" are no more: they are now the Knights who say "Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-patang-zoom-boing-Olé-Biscuitbarrel".
* Tim the Enchanter: A Scottish sorcerer/pyromaniac.
* Mrs. Galahad: A Pepperpot. Dennis Galahad's mother. A politically active peasant.
* The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog: A bloodthirsty rabbit puppet with nasty, big, pointy teeth.
* Swamp Castle Guards: One has trouble understanding simple concepts, one hiccups a lot (and is presumably quite drunk).
* Two Sentries: At an unspecified castle. They enjoy talking about swallows and coconuts.
* Historian: the Narrator.
* The Mayor of Finland: A character who really shouldn’t be in this musical.
* The Laker Girls: The Lady of the Lake's backup dancers/cheerleaders.
* Knights of the Round Table: They dance when e'er they're able. They do routines, and chorus scenes, with footwork impeccable.
* Robin’s Minstrels: Enthusiastic, multi-talented group that follows the knight.
* God: Sounds a lot like John Cleese.
* Holder of the Holy Grail: Whoever happens to be sitting in a certain seat at that performance.
In tribute to the film, where six actors played the majority of the male parts (and a few female ones), several actors play multiple roles; the only major characters not doubling are Arthur and the Lady of the Lake. In the Broadway production, the following doubling is used:
* Lancelot/The French Taunter/Knight of Ni/Tim the Enchanter
* Robin/1st Sentry/1st Guard/Brother Maynard
* Galahad/King of Swamp Castle/Black Knight
* Patsy/Mayor of Finland/2nd Guard
* Bedevere/Mrs. Galahad/Concorde
* The Historian/Prince Herbert/Not Dead Fred/Lead Minstrel/The French Taunter's Best Friend
Sara Ramirez was intended to double as a witch but this part was cut from the final script. Several pairs of characters originally played by the same Monty Python member were reduced to one: the Dead Collector and Sir Robin (Idle), the Large Man with a Dead Body and Sir Lancelot (Cleese), and Dennis the Politically-Active Peasant and Sir Galahad (Michael Palin). Production history
Previews of the show began in Chicago's Shubert Theatre (now the Bank of America Theatre) on December 21, 2004; the show officially opened there on January 9, 2005.
Two musical numbers were dropped from Act One while the production was still in Chicago. During the scene set in the "Witch Village", the torch song "Burn Her!" was originally performed by Sir Bedevere, The Witch, Sir Robin, Lance and Villagers. At the French Castle, "The Cow Song", in a parody of a stereotypical film noir/cabaret style, was performed by The Cow and French Citizens. Before the two songs were cut in Chicago, the lead vocals in both songs were sung by Sara Ramirez. This gave her six songs in Act One, but no further appearances until scene five in Act Two, for "The Diva's Lament". Broadway
Hormel produced promotional collector's editions of Spam, initially in conjunction with the play's Broadway premiere.
The musical previewed on Broadway, at New York's Shubert Theatre, beginning February 14, 2005, and, after some changes, officially opened on March 17, 2005. Mike Nichols directed, and Casey Nicholaw choreographed. The Broadway previews were practically sold out, leaving only obstructed view tickets for sale. The production won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was nominated for 14 Tony Awards. The show played its final performance on January 11, 2009 after 35 previews and 1,574 performances;it was seen by more than two million people and grossed over $175 million, recouping its initial production costs in under six months.
The original Broadway cast included Tim Curry as King Arthur, Michael McGrath as Patsy, David Hyde Pierce as Sir Robin, Hank Azaria as Sir Lancelot and other roles (e.g., the French Taunter, Knight of Ni, and Tim the Enchanter), Christopher Sieber as Sir Galahad and other roles (e.g., the Black Knight and Prince Herbert's Father), and Sara Ramírez as the Lady of the Lake. It also included Christian Borle as Prince Herbert and other roles (e.g., the Historian and Not Dead Fred), Steve Rosen as Sir Bedevere and other roles (e.g., Concorde and Dennis's Mother) and John Cleese as the (recorded) Voice of God.
Notable cast replacements have included the following:
* Azaria was replaced by Alan Tudyk and later by Rick Holmes.
* Ramírez was replaced by Lauren Kennedy, then by Marin Mazzie, Hannah Waddingham, and Merle Dandridge.
* Curry was replaced by Simon Russell Beale, Harry Groener, Jonathan Hadary, Stephen Collins, Michael Siberry, and John O'Hurley.
* Sieber was replaced by Lewis Cleale, then by Bradley Dean.
* Borle was replaced by Tom Deckman.
* Pierce was replaced by Martin Moran, Clay Aiken, and Robert Petkoff.
* McGrath was replaced by David Hibbard, then by Drew Lachey.
* Rosen was replaced by Jeffrey Kuhn, Brad Oscar, Steve Rosen and Wally Dunn. North American tour
A North American tour commenced in spring 2006, and the cast included Michael Siberry as King Arthur, Jeff Dumas as Patsy/Mayor/Guard, David Turner as Robin/Guard/Brother Maynard, Rick Holmes as Lancelot/French Taunter/Knight of Ni/Tim The Enchanter, Bradley Dean as Galahad/Black Knight/Herbert's Father, Tom Deckman as The Historian/Not Dead Fred/French Guard/Minstrel/Prince Herbert, Christopher Gurr as Sir Bedevere/Dennis's Mother/Concorde, and Pia Glenn (who remains slated for productions as late as June 2008) as the Lady of the Lake. Deckman moved to the Broadway production in November 2006 and was replaced by Christopher Sutton.
The tour won three 2007 Touring Broadway Awards, including Best New Musical.
This same tour returned to Chicago on January 20, 2009 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, this time with Richard Chamberlain as King Arthur. This production costs $419,099.53 in artist fees/royalties for 8 performances in a venue in Florida.
This same touring company continued through the summer 2009, with dates at the Golden Gate Theatre San Francisco, the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, the Canon Theatre in Toronto, the San Diego Civic Theatre in San Diego, the Tucson Music Hall in Tucson, and played its final performances at the Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa where it closed on October 18, 2009.
London West End
A London production opened at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End, commencing 30 September 2006 (London première 17 October) with tickets on sale booking to November 2008. Curry reprised his Broadway role as King Arthur until December, with Beale taking over since January. Sieber also reprised his role as Sir Galahad before leaving in early 2007, replaced by Graham McDuff. Hannah Waddingham was cast as the Lady of the Lake, Tom Goodman-Hill as Sir Lancelot, Robert Hands as Sir Robin, David Birell as Patsy, Tony Timberlake as Sir Bedevere and Darren Southworth as Prince Herbert. Notable cast replacements have included Peter Davison and Bill Ward in 2007 and, briefly, Marin Mazzie, in early 2008. Sanjeev Bhaskar took over from Alan Dale as the last King Arthur (23 June 2008 onwards). The London production closed on 3 January 2009; it was to be followed by a UK tour later that year which was later cancelled, the producers commenting "Due to unforeseen circumstances the UK Tour of SPAMalot will not be taking place as scheduled in 2009." However it was recently reported that the UK Tour is back on with 2 date confirmed so far to play at the New Wimbledon Theatre on 29th May - 5th June 2010 and Nottingham Theatre Royal on 7th - 12th June 2010. More casting and tour dates are yet to be announced.
A production of the musical began Las Vegas, Nevada previewed on March 8, 2007 and opened on March 31, 2007 at the Wynn Las Vegas in the newly renamed Grail Theater (formerly the Broadway Theater, which housed a production of Avenue Q), with an extended balcony to allow for more seating, and a redesigned interior. As with other Las Vegas transfers of Broadway musicals, including Phantom of the Opera, Spamalot was condensed to run in ninety minutes without an intermission. Among the cuts were the song "All For One", most of the song "Run Away", the Knights of Ni receiving their shrubbery, and the "Make sure he doesn't leave" scene with Prince Herbert's guards.
Actor John O'Hurley starred as King Arthur. Due to the Las Vegas production, the North American touring company would not perform in California, Arizona, or Nevada. In addition to O'Hurley, the cast included Nikki Crawford as Lady of the Lake, Edward Staudenmayer as Galahad, J Anthony Crane as Lancelot, Justin Brill as Patsy, and Harry Bouvy as Robin, with Reva Rice as the standby Lady of the Lake.
Although initially contracted to run for up to ten years its final performance was on July 18, 2008. The Las Vegas production closed to make way for Danny Gans' move from The Mirage casino hotel; the theater was renamed the Encore Theater and integrated into the newer Encore Las Vegas resort. Danny Gans died unexpectedly on May 1, 2009. Australia
A new Australian production started in Melbourne in November 2007 at Her Majesty's Theatre, with the official premiere on December 1. The cast featured Bille Brown as King Arthur and Lucinda Shaw as the Lady of the Lake, Ben Lewis as Sir Galahad, Stephen Hall as Sir Lancelot, Derek Metzger as Patsy, Jason Langley as Sir Robin and Mark Conaghan as Prince Herbert, with Christina O'Neill as the standby Lady of the Lake.
The Australian production closed on April 5, 2008, due to lack of ticket sales and no tour followed.
The Australian Non-Professional Premiere season of Spamalot was presented by Phoenix Ensemble at the Pavilion Theatre in Beenleigh and the Logan Entertainment Centre from the 20th March to the 25th April 2009 for 16 performances. This production won several awards at the Gold Coast Theatre Awards including Best Musical Direction (Casey Chadwick and Ben Murray), Best Set Design (Tracey and Luke Hutley, Doug McClean) and Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Tash McKoy). It was also nominated for Best Costumes (Glynis Aubrey) and Best Choregraphy (Scott Hollingsworth).
The Gold Coast Premiere season of Spamalot opened at the Spotlight Theatre, Benowa on July 24 2009 for a four week run. The Sydney Premiere of Spamalot was held on October 9 2009 by The Regals Musical Society.
The Canberra premier will be in May 2010 at the ANU Arts Centre by SUPA Productions
Perth will finally see Spamalot in November 2010, presented by Playlovers in Hackett Hall, Floreat. New Zealand
The New Zealand premiere was staged at the Globe Theatre Palmerston North for a four week season in November/December 2009. Spain
The first translated production, in Spanish, opened at Teatre Victoria, Barcelona on September 9, 2008 and closed on May 10, 2009. Directed by Catalan Comedy Group Tricicle and choreographed by Francesc Abós, the cast included Jordi Bosch as King Arthur, Marta Ribera as the Lady of the Lake, Sergi Albert as Sir Galahad (later replaced by Edu Soto), Fernando Gil as Sir Lancelot, Julián Fontalvo as Patsy, Xavi Duch as Sir Robin, Josep M. Gimeno as Sir Bedevere and Jesús García as Prince Herbert, with Sara Pérez as the standby Lady of the Lake. The Original Barcelona Cast Recording was released on December 2008.
On September 10, 2009 the same production opened at Teatro Lope de Vega, Madrid with some changes in the cast: Dulcinea Juárez as the Lady of the Lake, Ignasi Vidal as Sir Galahad, Víctor Ullate Roche as Sir Robin and Lorena Calero as the standby Lady of the Lake. Germany
A German production has started on January 2009 at the Musical Dome in Cologne. Hungary
The Hungarian production has started on September 2009 at the Madách Theatre in Budapest. Further informations Sweden
The Swedish production will premiere in Malmö on 24 September 2010.
The Belgian production will be directed by Belgian actor Stany Crets.
The Czech Republic
The Czech production will premiere 6 March 2010 in the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen. France
The French production has started on February 5, 2010 at the Comedia Theatre in Paris and is directed by French actor Pierre-François Martin-Laval.
Reactions by Monty Python members
"I'm making them money, and the ungrateful bastards never thank me. Who gave them a million dollars each for 'Spamalot'?" —Eric Idle
The show has had mixed reactions from Idle's former colleagues in Monty Python.
Terry Gilliam, in an audio interview, describes it as "Python-lite". He later told the BBC News, "It helps with the pension fund, and it helps keep Python alive. As much as we'd like to pull the plug on the whole thing it carries on - it's got a life of its own."
Terry Jones - who co-directed the original film with Gilliam - expressed his opinions forthrightly in May 2005: "Spamalot is utterly pointless. It's full of air…Regurgitating Python is not high on my list of priorities." However, when asked whether he liked Spamalot during an interview with Dennis Daniel on 98.5 WBON-FM "The BONE" on Long Island shortly after the musical's opening on Broadway, Jones said, "Well, I thought it was terrific good fun. It’s great to see the audience loving it. I suppose I had reservations as far as…well…the idea of doing scenes from a film on stage. I just don’t get the point of it. They do them terribly well…I mean, they really are good…but I just quite don’t understand what that’s about. It isn’t really 'Python.' It is very much Eric." Jones went on to say, "...I think the best parts of the musical are the new things. For instance, when they do the Andrew Lloyd Weber take-off and this girl comes in and sings 'Whatever Happened To My Part' since she hasn’t appeared since the opening number and she’s really furious! That is one of the great moments where the show really comes alive for me."
In an Oct. 2006 interview, Michael Palin said, "We’re all hugely delighted that Spamalot is doing so well. Because we’re all beneficiaries! It’s a great show. It’s not ‘Python’ as we would have written it. But then, none of us would get together and write a ‘Python’ stage show. Eric eventually ran out of patience and said, ‘Well, I’ll do it myself then.’ He sent us bits and songs and all that and we said, ‘Yeah, that’s all right, have a go.’ But its success is so enormous that it took us all by surprise, including Eric, and now we’re just proud to be associated with it, rather pathetically."
When asked by a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter in 2008 if he had to be persuaded to provide the recorded voice of God in the musical, John Cleese said, "Yeah, that’s right. And in the end I think Spamalot turned out splendidly. It’s had a tremendous run. I defy anyone to go and not have a really fun evening. It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen and I think Eric did a great job." Critical reception and box-office
The original production has been both a financial and critical success. Variety reported advance ticket sales of $18 million, with ticket prices ranging from $36 to $179. The advance made Broadway box office history.
The show proved to be an early success when moving to London's West End. After high advance ticket sales the show's run was extended by four weeks, four months before the run commenced. The play makes many references to the film and other material in the Python canon, including a line from "The Lumberjack Song", nods to "Ministry of Silly Walks," the "Election Night Special" and "Dead Parrot Sketch" routines, a bar from "Spam" worked into "Knights of the Round Table", a rendition of the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from the film Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979), and the "Fisch Schlapping Song" which is a reference to both "The Fish-Slapping Dance" and the song "Finland". Another reference is actually part of the Playbill of the show; there are several gag pages about a musical entitled "Dik Od Triaanenen Fol (Finns Ain't What They Used To Be)". This gag programme was written by Palin, and echoes the faux-Norwegian subtitles in the credits of the original Grail Python film.
Broadway musical fans appreciate its references to other musicals and musical theatre in general, such as: "The Song That Goes Like This" (a spoof of Andrew Lloyd Webber productions and many other Broadway power ballads); the knights doing a dance reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof, and another reminiscent of West Side Story (including the music); Sir Lancelot's mimicking of Peter Allen in "His Name Is Lancelot"; the character of Sir Not Appearing in This Show being Man of La Mancha's Don Quixote; a member of the French "army" dressed as Eponine from Les Misérables; and a line pulled from "Another Hundred People" from Stephen Sondheim's Company by the "damsel" Herbert. The song "You Won't Succeed (On Broadway)" also parodies The Producers and Yentl.
The show has not escaped criticism. In Slate, Sam Anderson wrote, "Python was formed in reaction to exactly the kind of lazy comedy represented by Spamalot — what Michael Palin once described as the 'easy, catch-phrase reaction' the members had all been forced to pander in their previous writing jobs... Spamalot is the gaudy climax of a long, unfunny tradition of post-Python exploitation — books, actions figures, video games — that treats the old material as a series of slogans to be referenced without doing any of the work that made the lines so original in the first place."
The West End version opened to two rave reviews. "It’s a wonderful night, and I fart in the general direction of anyone who says otherwise", wrote Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph (echoing a joke from the show). According to Paul Taylor in the Independent, "it leaves you that high and weak with laughter, thanks not just to the Python provenance of the basic material but to the phenomenal speed, wit, cheek and showbiz knowingness of the direction, which is by the great veteran, Mike Nichols". Michael Billington in the Guardian was less enthusiastic, though, stating "while I'm happy to see musicals spoofed, the show's New York origins are clearly exposed in a would-be outre number which announces "we won't succeed in show business if we don't have any Jews": a Broadway in-joke that has little purchase this side of the Atlantic." Billington adds, "With hand on heart, I'd much rather watch Lerner and Loewe's Camelot than Eric Idle's smart-arsed Spamalot."
The Las Vegas production was awarded the Number 1 show of 2007 by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Coconut orchestra world record
On March 22, 2006, to mark the first anniversary of the official Broadway opening, the "World's Largest Coconut Orchestra", 1,789 people clapping together half coconut shells, performed in Shubert Alley, outside the theatre. The claim was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. This record was broken by 5,567 people in Trafalgar Square at 7pm on 23 April 2007, led by the cast from the London production, along with Jones and Gilliam, with the coconuts used in place of the whistles in "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". This formed part of London's St George's Day celebrations that year and was followed by a screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Other
In 2006, the London cast of Spamalot performed excerpts at the Royal Variety Performance.
On March 10, 2007, Spamalot partnered with HP Sauce (the classic British brown sauce, now made in Holland due to a contentious decision to close its factory in Britain) to produce 1,075 limited edition bottles featuring a unique Spamalot take on the classic HP design. The bottles were available exclusively via Selfridges, London and came in a presentation box with a numbered certificate. 1,075 was chosen to celebrate, absurdly, "1,075 years of the show running in London".
In July 2007 it was announced that the London production would solve the problem of replacing Hannah Waddingham as the Lady of the Lake through a TV talent show in Sweden. The programme, called West End Star, which began airing on TV3 on December 8, 2007, announced Nina Söderquist as the winner on February 2, 2008.
On December 15, 2007, the 10 finalists were announced. These were:
* Sandra Caménisch - 35-year-old full-time mother of three from Stockholm with an eight-week-old son
* Karin Funk - 25-year-old checkout girl at Seven Eleven from Gothenburg
* Jenny Holmgren - 25-year-old student from Stockholm
* Linda Holmgren - 27-year-old cruise ship entertainer from Stockholm, sister of Jenny
* Petra Jablonski - 38-year-old opera singer from Västerås married to renowned concert pianist Patrick Jablonski
* Viktoria Krantz - 31-year-old show jumper from Stockholm
* Divina Sarkany - 34-year-old actress from Gothenburg
* Nina Söderquist - 35-year-old singing waitress from Stockholm (the eventual winner)
* Susanne Petersson - 28-year-old cabaret artist from Malmo
* Josefine Wassler - 19-year-old student at Rock School from Stockholm
Nina took up the role of The Lady of the Lake, with a standing ovation, on Monday 11 February 2008. DVD
Portions of the Spamalot original cast recording were featured (with accompanying Flash animation) as a special feature in the 2006 "Extraordinarily Deluxe Two-Disc Edition" DVD re-release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.