Monty Python's Spamalot

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ERIC IDLE and JOHN DU PREZ, Monty Pythons Spamalot. Boyett Ostar Productions and the Shubert Organization. The Shubert Theatre, New York. Broadway preview, February 18, 2005; opened March 17, 2005.

The Broadway production of Spamalot gleefully inhales you before you hit the aisle: it's an 'event'-frisson is in the air. Ticketholders swarm together in late winter's chill at the theatre's door laughing and reciting lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You'll hear 'NI! NI! NI!' before the crush propels you to the booth selling the Arthurian consumer's eyeful of Holy Hand Grenades, squishy Killer Rabbits, and the best Grail tee-shirts available this side of, well, paradise. However much you spend on your ticket, prepare to spend twice as much on memorabilia. Don't forget to get your special golden edition of Spam!

Once seated, people read their Playbill aloud to explosive gurgles and giggles. The title is first given as Bin Faaarkrekkion's new Moosical, 'DIK OD TRIAANENEN FOL (Finns Ain't What They Used To Be),' based on an idea from 'Sid, Coco and Edith Piaf.' In one wink of the eye, you can check off Monty Python and the Holy Grail, comic vaudevillians, hoofers, chanteuses, and high style. We will view, we are told, the 'story, in music and song, of Finland's transformation from a predominantly rural agricultural base to one of the most sophisticated industrial and entrepreneurial economies in the world.' And the Playbill doesn't stop there, but gives us biographies of the cast and staff, of which this director's entry is but one:

TANAKA ING (Director). The only non-Finn in the company, Ing has a long history in experimental theatre, including Churchill's History of the English SpeakingPeople in mime, a salsa version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and a puppet version of the U.S. Population Census of 1973. A great tennis lover, Ing went to Finland for a contemplation weekend and found himself hooked. "I love trees and always have, and in Finland there are something like a thousand trees for each person. I also like the bits in between them, which allow you to walk around the trees without hitting them. I hope I can do my bit to make the world sing along with the remarkable transformation from a predominantly conservative rural base to one of the most advanced industrial economies in the'Western world." Ing's next project is to drain Lake Michigan for a day.

Ing's next project seems no less improbable than Christo and Jeanne-Claude's monumental art extravaganza 'The Gates,' waving in Central Park that day. Movie audiences accustomed to theatre directives thrill to the final Finnish program note: 'Patrons are asked not to smoke or speak Swedish in the theatre. Please use cell phones whenever possible. …