Anyone who remembers the 1970s probably knows at least one Monty Python sketch by heart, whether it’s the dead parrot, the lumberjack song, or the Ministry of Silly Walks.
But even people who have never heard of the English comedy group should enjoy “Spamalot,” the 2005 musical based on the troupe’s 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“It has all of the famous moments from the movie,” said Steve Black, director of Marblehead Little Theatre’s upcoming production. “But it’s a great work for fans of the musical theater genre, who may not have the background of the movie. It still works.”
The movie and musical both parody the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which were compiled by Sir Thomas Malory in the 15th century and have been treated in countless poems, novels and theatrical productions ever since.
Arthur and his knights are searching for the holy grail, the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, and in Monty Python’s version, their quest becomes a series of hilarious encounters. They are attacked by a killer rabbit, and they encounter knights who say “ni” and demand to be given a shrubbery in exchange for their lives.
Python’s comedy often centers on characters who pursue an absurd premise to its logical conclusion. For example, in a scene that appears in both the movie and the play, a knight in black armor who is guarding a bridge denies he is hurt and continues to fight, even as King Arthur cuts off each of his limbs with a sword.
For Black, that stubbornness has a lot to do with how comedy works.
“For me, comedy originates from deeply developed characters,” he said. “It’s a commitment to portraying that individual person, what makes them tick, what makes them go.”