Nov. 14--If you were a kid or a young adult in the 1970s, chances are you loved "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
The silly and twisted take on the King Arthur myth was one of the funniest movies of its era, and its catch phrases are still part of pop culture.
Thirty years after the film, Monty Python member Eric Idle, Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Band and film composer John Du Prez turned the wacky film into an equally wacky musical called "Spamalot." It turned into one of the biggest hits on Broadway of the 2004-05 season. Directed by Mike Nichols, it won the Tony Award for best musical and it ran for nearly four years.
Now "Spamalot" is coming to Sarasota, thanks to the season-opening production at Florida Studio Theatre. It opens Friday and runs through mid-January.
"I actually feel like it's fairly true to the movie," said Kevin Loreque, who plays Patsy in the FST production. "But it's also accessible to people who haven't seen the movie."
Patsy, as lovers as the movie may remember, is King Arthur's sidekick. He's played by Terry Gilliam in the film, and he prances along with the knights of the Round Table banging coconuts together to make horse-hoof noises. The role's quite a bit more substantial in "Spamalot".
"He's much more prominent in the play," Loreque said. "When I approach Patsy, I think of it as Shakespeare, like the jester in 'King Lear' who has a lot of wisdom to impart. My song in act two is kind of the play's observation on life."
That song is "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," perhaps the best-known Monty Python songs ever. It's from "Life of Brian," not from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" but its sardonic message of being hopeful when there's nothing to be hopeful about fits into the Arthurian legend, too.
This is Loreque's first performance with FST, but his second turn in "Spamalot," he played King Arthur in a production in New York state over the summer.
"Spamalot" includes the flying cows and killer bunnies from its source film, but it's a real musical, and its songs have been just as acclaimed as its comedy.
"My favorite part about 'Spamalot' is not only does it have a lot of funny scenes, it also has lots of tuneful music," said Bruce Jordan, who's directing the FST production. "In its own way it's like the musical comedies I was brought up on. A fun book and a strong score."
Details: Nov. 15-Jan. 15, Gompertz Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre, 241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. Show times: various. Tickets: $18-$36. Information: 941-366-9000, www.floridastudiotheatre.org.
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