Don't worry if you forget to bring your own coconuts. You can buy some in the lobby.
But fans of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which "Spamalot," the musical "lovingly ripped off" from the cult film, may already be packing the tropical fruits, ready to clip-clop along with the horseless horsemen.
They might have bloody stuffed bunnies tucked under an arm, or be equipped to recite scathing insults in unison with the French Taunter ("You son of a window-dresser!"), or — as in one stop in the national tour, be dressed in a homemade Black Knight costume, complete with severed arms.
Junkies of the 1975 film — and they are legion, usually men who grew up reciting Python sketches to one another — may be concerned whether the big-budget musical is true to its low-tech, irreverent roots. Rest easy: the Knights say "Ni," the cow goes airborne, and yes, a knight gets it in the throat from the rabbit.
IF YOU GO
- When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through February 11
- Where: Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples
- Admission: $90-$94
- Information: 239-597-1900, 800-597-1900, www.thephil.org
- Calendar: More about "Spamalot"
If the charm of the quintessentially British, irreverent, utterly ridiculous Pythons — Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman — proves elusive, there's still plenty to enjoy in a musical in which King Arthur and his knights go on a meandering quest for the Holy Grail. A self-referential parody of all things Broadway, the show hopes to appeal to fanatics and neophytes alike.
"It absolutely does not leave the Python fan behind," says cast member Robert Petkoff, who plays brave Sir Robin ("the-Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot"). "And it certainly brings into the fold the musical theater fan — in a mad way."
Eric Idle faced a daunting task five years ago when he decided to write a musical tribute to the classic film: Honor the spirit — and the fans — of the film, but bring in a whole new audience as well. Along with composer John Du Prez, he wrote and recorded the music in just five weeks, much of it improvised, and two-thirds of the show's score comes from that intense period.
Their balancing act seemed to have worked. The show garnered 14 Tony nominations (it walked off with three, including Best Musical of 2005), Outer Critics' Circle and Drama Desk awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.
Pretty heady stuff for the guys whose previous musical collaborations included "Every Sperm Is Sacred" and "The Not Noel Coward Song."
For Petkoff, the challenge wasn't how to play an iconic role made famous by two familiar figures: Idle in the film and David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier") on Broadway. He was more concerned about over playing it.
"It's tempting because it's funny stuff," says the American actor, who grew up watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and calls "The Holy Grail" one of the 10 funniest movies ever made. "You want to say to the audience, 'Watch this: I get it.'"
But director Mike Nichols, who helmed both the Broadway and touring productions, was quite clear on that point. No shtick. "When in doubt, go back to the movie," Petkoff says the acclaimed director told the cast.
"Mike's battle cry over and over was, 'You're not funny. The material is funny.' When you start thinking you're funnier than the material, you're not doing the right thing by the show," says Petkoff, who came to the tour fresh from the Broadway revival of "Fiddler on the Roof."
But that doesn't mean the cast is playing is straight, either. The Pythons excel at playing banality to the hilt, and that's where much of their hilarity lies.
"By what name are you known?" asks the movie King Arthur (Chapman) when his band happens upon a fearsome sorcerer (Cleese). A portentous Cleese fixes him with an intimidating glare. "There are some who call me ... Tim."
"These guys were crazy geniuses," Petkoff says. "Their minds work in such a clever way."
Some of the original Pythons even have "cameos" in the show: Idle voices the recorded curtain speech, and Cleese is heard as the voice of God. (Chapman, who died of cancer in 1989, voiced the supreme being in the film.)
"The goal is to try to crack up not only the audience, but the fellow cast members," Petkoff explains. "If you're entertaining them, and they've seen it hundreds of times, then the chances are pretty good that you're entertaining your audience.
"It's such a joy to do. I can't believe I get to say these words: I can't believe they pay me for this."