Stage preview: 'Spamalot' intends to make you laugh a lot

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“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” premiering Tuesday at the Benedum Center, is Marc Robin’s fourth time directing the show.

”I’m a huge Monty Python fan,” he repeated a few times. “I’ve watched Monty Python my whole life.”

He has seen most if not all of the British comedy group’s movies and television shows. What appeals to him, he said, is the style and consistency of the humor.

'Monty Python's Spamalot'

Where: Pittsburgh CLO at Benedum Center, Downtown.

When: Tuesday through Aug. 3. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $10-$70.75. 412-456-6666 or pittsburghclo.org.


With a book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by Mr. Idle, John Du Prez and Neil Innes, “Spamalot” is based on (or, as the poster reads, “lovingly ripped off from”) the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” a comedic reinterpretation of the legend of King Arthur’s quest to obtain the Holy Grail. Along the way, the king is aided by the bumbling Knights of the Round Table and the diva-ish Lady of the Lake, and the characters put on numbers such as “The Song That Goes Like This,” “Find Your Grail” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

The musical, which had its Chicago premiere in January 2005 and opened on Broadway in March 2005, takes its title from a line in the film: “We eat ham, and jam, and spam a lot.”

Mr. Robin — who has previously directed productions of “Grease” and “The Producers,” and has done the show in Lancaster, Houston, and Portland, Maine — also serves as the show’s choreographer. (“It’s doubly my fault if you don’t like it,” he conceded.) Although this is his first visit to Pittsburgh, Mr. Robin said he already is enjoying his time here. The town, he said, seems to have a strong appreciation for theater.

“[The theater staff] are... so passionate about the art, which is so exciting,” he said. “Everywhere I look, the arts are thriving.”

The transition of the film’s funny flair from screen to stage only amplifies the laughs, Mr. Robin said. The theatrical medium is rife with potential for improvisation, which is also an important part of the musical — and one that Mr. Robin has chosen to play up. Not only does this make every performance a little bit different, but it also allows the cast to infuse themselves into the production and enjoy the show while playing their parts.

“We just spent the last four hours laughing our heads off and we’re in rehearsal!” he said. “[The show] is scripted, but there’s leeway to go off script and actually enjoy playing the comedy.”

His hope is that audience members have their days brightened by the performances. At previous productions of “Spamalot,” Mr. Robin said he has seen show attendees walk in looking like they have had awful days, but leave with big smiles on their faces, humming and singing.

And “Spamalot” doesn't just appeal to audiences for its humor. The show, Mr. Robin said, has a fair amount of play, but also a structure, a heart and a message.

“Follow the thing in your life that you’re passionate about, and then you’ll be happy. That’s what the grail is.”

Wesley Yiin: wyiin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1723. Twitter: @YiinYangYale.

 

 


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