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‘Spamalot’ brings big-screen silliness to the stage

The sound of hollow coconuts clanking together has left the Broadway stage and a famed Brittish comedy musical has made its way the the Tampa Bay Performing Art Center — without the assistance of swallows.

The musical comedy Monty Python’s Spamalot, featured on Broadway, follows King Arthur and his faithful knights on a mission of medieval silliness. The play is a musical take on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail and was written by Eric Idle, an original member of the British comedy group Monty Python.

“I like the title Spamalot a lot. We tested it with audiences on my recent U.S. tour and they liked it as much as I did, which is gratifying,” Idle said in a 2004 press release. “It comes from a line in the movie which goes, ‘We eat ham, and jam and Spam
a lot.'”

Though some might think British humor from more than three decades ago has become stale, one knight says nay. Christopher Gurr, who plays Sir Bedevere in one of his three roles, said he believes this show has laughs for everyone.

“If you’re a Python fan, you’ll enjoy it because we’ve got lots of their material. If you are a musical theater fan, you’ll enjoy it because we take a lot of shots at other musicals,” Gurr said. “And for those who don’t know anything about either of those topics, there are a lot of pop-culture references.”

In typical Python fashion, actors play multiple parts throughout the play. Eight actors and 16 chorus members make up the on-stage cast. Gurr also plays Mrs. Gallahad, which he regards as his favorite role.

“She is a lot of fun because there is nothing subtle about her—when I watched Python growing up, those were always my favorite characters,” he said.

Richard Chamberlain wears the crown as King Arthur. Chamberlain is best known for his work in several critically acclaimed miniseries and won a Golden Globe for his performance in Shogun.

While fans of the movie are sure to love the classic scenes such as those involving the Black Knight and the killer rabbit, the story — or lack thereof — has been altered to fit its new format.

“The movie doesn’t really follow a storyline, but we can’t really do that,” Gurr said. “The second half of the play goes off on a tangent to establish two things necessary of a musical comedy: a love interest and a happy ending.”

The play also offers some room for improvisation. Some scenes contain specific sections in which characters make local references to help personalize the performance.

As for the dangers of a live performance, Gurr said onstage mishaps and slipups might even enhance the comedy.

“The nice thing about this show is if anything goes wrong, we can just make fun of it,” he said.

Spamalot runs through March 8 at the Carol Morsani Hall of TBPAC. Ticket prices start at $45.