What Tony Award-winning musical features farting Frenchmen, killer bunny rabbits and the dreaded Knights who say Ni?
It’s “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” a spectacularly silly musical inspired by the 1974 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The Broadway blockbuster returns to San Luis Obispo on Nov. 21, following last year’s sold-out show.
According to Arthur Rowan, who plays King Arthur, there’s plenty of medieval merriment in store.
“You certainly don’t need to have seen ‘Monty Python’ to get a lot out of the show,” he said. “The humor is the perfect combination of intelligent and very, very silly. Even the lowbrow comedy is slightly classy.”
Classic film retold
The brainchild of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” alumnus Eric Idle and John Du Prez, “Monty Python’s “Spamalot” breathes fresh life into the story first told in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
King Arthur (Rowan) embarks on a quest for the Holy Grail with his faithful squire Patsy (Michael J. Berry) and his knights, including brave Sir Robin (Kasidy Devlin), homicidal Sir Lancelot (Adam Grabau) and dashing Sir Dennis Galahad (Jacob L. Smith). Along the way, they encounter the lovely Lady of the Lake (Brittany Woodrow) and her Laker Girls, face a fortress of lewd French soldiers and battle the not-so-invincible Black Knight.
“Aside from the fact that there’s a lot more music, it’s a much more uplifting show,” Rowan said of “Spamalot,” which premiered on Broadway in 2005. “The film was incredibly funny, bitingly funny, but the ending was actually somewhat of a downer.”
This version, he added, is “much more about comedy.”
As Arthur, Rowan naturally has to play the straight man.
“If King Arthur ever realized he was in a comedy, the whole thing would fall apart,” the actor explained. “I prepare for this role the same way I’d prepare for ‘Henry V.’ ”
A Pennsylvania-based actor whose credits include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” Rowan’s experience isn’t limited to Shakespeare. He spent four years as a performer, director and fight coordinator for the Pennsylvania Renaissance Festival.
“I was born to swing a broad sword onstage,” Rowan joked.
All that fight training comes in handy when he’s cutting a rug with the rest of the cast.
Catchy show tunes
“Spamalot” features splashy song-and-dance numbers such as the Las Vegas-style “Knights of the Round Table” and the stirring “Find Your Grail.” Even the Lady of the Lake gets her own aptly-title showstopper: “Diva’s Lament—Whatever Happened to My Part?”
The musical also packs in references to other musicals, such as “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Man of La Mancha” and “West Side Story,” and nods to several classic “Monty Python” sketches including “The Lumberjack Song,” “The Ministry of Silly Walks” and the “Dead Parrot Sketch.”
“Spamalot” even closes with a rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” from the 1979 film “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” (The musical won a 2006 Grammy Award for best cast recording.)
According to Rowan, “Spamalot” invariably lifts audience members’ spirits.
‘It’s a guarantee you’ll leave the theater in a better mood,” he said. “There’s a lot of humor but there’s actually a lot of heart.”