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Theater

'Spamalot,' a musical passionate about silliness

| Thursday, July 24, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
The Lady of the Lake in 'Spamalot'
Bruce Bennett
The Lady of the Lake in 'Spamalot'

Marc Robin has been a fan of Monty Python films since he was a youngster growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He watched “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” so many times that he could recite large parts from memory.

“It never occurred to me that it would become a musical,” he says.

That love of the movie's offbeat humor and silliness continued into adulthood and his career as a director and choreographer.

“I love its style of humor. It's so clever, so smart, so fun,” says Robin, who is directing and choreographing the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production of “Monty Python's Spamalot,” which begins performances July 29 at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

It's the fourth time he has directed and choreographed the musical.

Previous productions were for Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, Maine; Theatre under the Stars in Houston, Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Mo., and at the Fulton Theater in Lancaster, where he has been the artistic director for nearly six years.

The musical puts an irreverent, Pythonesque spin on the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table on their quest for the Holy Grail, complete with flying cows, killer rabbits, taunting Frenchmen and knights who say “Ni!”

The book for the musical was created by Eric Idle, a member of the original comedy troupe who wrote and performed the British television comedy series “Monty Python's Flying Circus” and one of a sextet of Python participants who wrote and starred in the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Idle wrote the lyrics and co-created the music with John Du Prez.

The score contains tributes to Python fan-favorite moments with “The Fisch Schlapping Song”; “I Am Not Dead Yet,” sung by a chorus headed by Not Dead Fred; and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Other musical number are “The Diva's Lament,” sung by The Lady of the Lake; “You Won't Succeed on Broadway” and multiple reprises of “The Song That Goes Like This.”

“What I love is its sense of fun. But it has a huge heart. At the end of the day, it's about finding your (own) grail, your passion,” Robin says.

Having just completed back-to-back productions of “Les Miserables” and a musical about the Civil War, he's looking forward to working on this light comedy with tap-dancing knights and a search for shrubbery.

“It's so silly,” Robin says. “There are so many moments I love playing with. The rehearsal process is a group of adults laughing like children. ... It's a blast both to do and for the audience to watch.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, acarter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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