What exactly is a Monty Python?

Flying cows, killer rabbits, black knights, coconut equestrianism, knights who say “Ni” and French people. To any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street, this might seem like a completely unrelated, absurd or confusing series. To Monty Python fans, this list elicits giggles, chuckles, guffaws and probably an unsolicited string of quotes. Spamalot¸ a musical lovingly ripped off from the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, features all of these absurd characters and objects and is playing at the OmahaCommunity Playhouse May 29-June 28, 2015.

The Troupe
For those wondering, “What is a Monty Python?,” Monty Python was a British comedy group that formed in the 1960s and was best known for its 1970s movies Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Their comedic style was unpredictable and irreverent and tended to parody pop culture entertainment. Beginning as a sketch comedy troupe, The Pythons’ transition into movies was a daring, yet wildly successful, decision. Their transition from movies to stage 40 years later was also daring and not necessarily popular decision among all the Pythons at first.

Developing Spamalot
“I'd like to think that Spamalot was ultimately successful because Eric Idle willed it to happen,” said Spamalot Director Mark Robinson. “As the chief songwriter for the Pythons, he held great passion trying to create a stage show based on Python material, but he had to convince the stubborn others of the group that it could work. Just as George Bernard Shaw resisted having Pygmalion turned into what became My Fair Lady, most of the Pythons didn't really have any interest in having their satirical body of work – beloved by millions – turned into a narrative-driven stage musical that could ultimately flop like so many others had before them.”

So what turned the tide?

“The Pythons – who had moved on with their own lives and careers after the group officially broke up in the 1980s – resisted until Idle finally sat them down and played for them the show's power-ballad ‘The Song That Goes Like This,’” said Robinson. “John Cleese and the others laughed and began to see the real potential for a musical based on their work. They then gave Idle their blessing to proceed; although, they had little interest in being directly involved with its creation and left the project in Idle's capable hands.”

And Now for Something Completely Different
So not to disappoint any Monty Python super fans, favorite characters such as Not Dead Fred, Tim the Enchanter, Prince Herbert, Patsy and all the knights will all be accounted for in Spamalot. Also present in Spamalot will be two things that are totally UN-Python – women and endings.

“This show has a leading lady who is played by an actual lady! Python addicts know well that most of the female roles in the Pythons’ work were played by the six men of the group,” said Robinson. “The so-called ‘7th Python’ – British bombshell Carol Cleveland who appeared in every Python incarnation (as a woman) – only played trivial roles. With Spamalot, however, Idle made a great leap by creating a leading role in the show played by a female! The risk paid off and added a never-before-attempted dimension to the Pythons’ work.”

The aforementioned lady is The Lady of the Lake. In OCP’s production, The Lady of the Lake is played by Melanie Walters who also happens to be the show’s choreographer. Talk about talent!

“Also unlike the film, the show actually has a proper ending,” said Robinson. “This may sound like a ridiculously obvious and expected attribute of any stage play, but the Pythons’ greatest struggle as writers were the creations of sensible traditional endings to their sketches and projects. You'll find that reflected in the abstract and abrupt endings of almost everything they ever created. This struggle is what originally led John Cleese to invite American-born animator Terry Gilliam into the group in 1969. Gilliam was responsible for the Python's distinctive segues: those far-out animated sequences which bridge the non-requiting sketches, and disguise the writer’s frequent inability to find a punch line funny enough to end a sketch on. Happily, the stage musical includes affectionate nods to Gilliam's wacky Victorian visuals; beautifully incorporated into our production by our show's talented scenic artist Craig Lee.”

On Stage at OCP
Even if patrons are not familiar with Monty Python humor, they will still laugh along with the rest of the crowd and enjoy the production from start to finish. Robinson also added, “Oh, patrons should also expect to see twenty-four of Omaha's brightest performers singing their lungs out and dancing up a frenzy, which is only interesting to those potential audience members who like...talent.  (If they're lucky, they might even catch a glimpse of God Almighty, too.)”

Spamalot is on the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre at the Omaha Community Playhouse May 29-June 28, 2015. Single tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for students. Tickets are half price after noon at the Box Office for that evening’s show (cash or check only while tickets last). Group tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students. For tickets, visit the OCP Box Office, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.

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