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Proudly boasting he had lovingly ripped off the cult movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Eric Idle launched his quirky musical Spamalot in London on Tuesday, hoping to match its record-breaking Broadway run. With flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits, and a legless knight, the supreme silliness of Monty Python returns home to the United Kingdom in October with Tim Curry reprising his Broadway role as King Arthur. Next January, Simon Russell Beale, currently playing the part in New York, will take over. The show has been taking in around $1 million a week and won three Tony awards last year, including best musical.
Offering launch party guests Spam sandwiches, badges bearing the slogan "I fart in your general direction," and a sing-along chorus of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," Idle reveled in mocking showbiz hype. He brought one of the producers onstage to sign a check, quipping, "That's a rare enough sight on Broadway," and he got the set designer to shine a flashlight on tiny Polaroid shots of the lavish set designs.
Idle said director Mike Nichols only won a Tony award for the Broadway production "by shamelessly spreading rumors that he was dying." Quashing press reports that some of his fellow stars in the '70s British TV comedy classic series were not that enamored by Spamalot, Idle said, "We persuaded the Pythons to go along with it."
John Cleese was cited in the press handout notes as saying he was delighted at seeing some songs "skewered definitively--it was liberating." "It is a crowd-pleaser, is what it is," fellow Python Terry Gilliam was quoted as saying. Michael Palin had "a feeling of great, ebullient, and redeeming silliness."
Idle told the launch audience: "I am the sixth nicest of the ex-Pythons and certainly the cheapest. I didn't want to do this for a living," he added, setting up one of the Pythons' most famous lines--"I wanted to be a lumberjack."
Asked why he chose to launch the musical in New York City before London, he said: "I went away to make a fortune in the United States, where the people are less discerning and the critics more bribable." But he did confess to being tempted into a name change before opening night after Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a friend while out quail hunting. "Dick Cheney will probably be calling it Monty Python and the Holy Quail," he said. (Paul Majendie, Reuters)