In 1975, “Monty Python & The Holy Grail” became a classic movie comedy that was adapted into the Tony-winning Broadway show “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in 2005.
This Friday, “Spamalot” opens at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland.
“It hilariously retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table on their quest for the Holy Grail,” Director and Choreographer Mark Minnick told WTOP. “It features killer rabbits, French taunters, beautiful showgirls, a little bit of everything.”
Filling the iconic roles of Arthurian legend are Alan Hoffman as King Arthur, Janine Sunday as the Lady of the Lake and Adam Grabau as Lancelot, among other comedic roles.
“I essentially play three roles originated by John Cleese and one role originated by Michael Palin,” Grabau said. “I don’t just play Lancelot, I also get to play the French Taunter, Tim the Enchanter and The Knight Who Says Ni. … This track was originated on Broadway by Hank Azaria. It really is a blast to play these goofy, zany characters in this madcap show.”
Do we also get a certain side-splitting battle resulting in a flesh wound?
“I’d say it’s a safe bet, yeah,” Grabau said.
The most hilarious sight gag is clanking coconuts for the sound of galloping horses.
“They’re actually a little harder to come by in good, capable, horse-sound-effect condition,” Grabau said. “The best way to get your own pair of coconuts is they have a brand of sorbet that they serve in a half-coconut shell. You can get it at Costco in a bag of a dozen.”
What’s the proper coconut-clanking technique?
“It’s simpler than most people think,” Grabau said. “Essentially there’s three paces. A full gallop is just in threes. It sounds like, ‘One, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three.’ A cantor is two: ‘one, two; one two; one, two.’ And a trot is just one, ‘[clap, clap, clap].’ Most of the time we will be galloping, so it’s just in close successions of three bangs together.”
The medieval set design echoes both the 2005 Broadway production (directed by Mike Nichols) and the 2014 Toby’s production that earned 10 Helen Hayes nominations.
“You’ll walk into a castle setup,” Minnick said. “Then we just bring in little surprises every moment. The bunny arrives, so what does he arrive behind? You’ll see.”
A handful of the costumes are actually from the original Broadway run starring Tim Curry.
“The costumes are ridiculous, very over the top,” Grabau said. “For the Knight Who Says Ni costume, I’m actually on stilts. With the helmet and everything it’s almost 12-feet tall.”
The absurd visuals complement equally absurd musical numbers.
“The title number … is called ‘Knights of the Round Table,’ we have an updated, flashier Vegas version,” Grabau said. “There is a musical number built around the entire French taunting sequence at the end of Act 1 called ‘Runaway.’ … The thing people take away is Eric Idle’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,’ which is actually from ‘Life of Brian.'”
Indeed, you’ll be whistling that hilariously optimistic tune on your way out of the theater.
“A lot of the original film is in there, but a lot of other Python treats are sprinkled in, as well as a lot of Broadway panache,” Grabau said. “It’s a lot of fun for both fans of the film, fans of Broadway musicals and those who just like to laugh.”
The show is meant to be enjoyed by diehard Monty Python fans and newcomers.
“Even if they’re not familiar with Monty Python, they’re going to love it,” Minnick said. “It’s so clever and it’s just absurdly silly. You can’t help but smile and laugh the entire night. … If you’re familiar with Monty Python, you’ll love it even more. It works for everyone.”