"All for one, one for all
All for one and one for all
Some for some
None for none
Slightly less for people we don't like
And a little bit more for me"
-"All For One"
A 2005 musical
"lovingly ripped off
" (by Eric Idle and John Du Prez) from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
, thus sharing many of the same tropes. Nominated for fourteen Tony Awards, of which it won three, including Best Musical. The original cast included Tim Curry
, David Hyde Pierce
, Hank Azaria
, Sara Ramirez
, and Christopher Sieber.
The 'plot' is introduced by the historian
, who gives an overview of the setting: medieval England. Naturally, the cast goes on to sing a song about Finland (also using the opportunity to perform the famous Fish-Slapping Dance). After this misunderstanding is cleared up, King Arthur
and his servant Patsy arrive on the scene in search of knights for the round table. They promptly get into an argument about swallows with some guards.
Later, Arthur and Patsy find Robin, a plague victim collector, and Lancelot (who is trying to dispose of a man who turns out to be "Not Dead Yet") and convince them to join the quest. Next, Arthur comes across a politically active peasant named Dennis, who denies Arthur's right to rule. To change his mind, Arthur summons the Lady of the Lake, who convinces Dennis to become Sir Galahad. Somewhere, they also pick up Sir Bedevere (and the aptly-named Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show).
After arriving in a Las Vegas-inspired Camelot, the knights are contacted by the voice of God (a recording of John Cleese or in the touring production, Eric Idle) who wants them to search for the Holy Grail. They set out immediately, but are defeated by the incessant taunting of their French enemies. The knights become separated and Arthur ends up in a "dark and very expensive forest", where he is "All Alone" (sort of). He then meets the Knights Who Say Ni, for which he and Patsy go off to find a shrubbery.
Meanwhile, Sir Robin is being annoyed by his minstrels when he happens upon the Black Knight. Robin is terrified, but Arthur bursts on the scene and defeats the Black Knight more or less how one would expect
. The KWSN want their shrubbery to be in a Broadway musical. Robin tells Arthur he cannot have a good musical without Jews, so he and Patsy go off to look for some.Meanwhile
, the Lady of the Lake complains about her lack of stage time
. Sir Lancelot storms a castle to save who he believes is a princess in distress. Naturally, it turns out to be Prince Herbert, a musically-inclined lad with a music-hating father. And everyone
thinks Lancelot is gay.
When Patsy reveals he is Jewish
, Arthur can resume his quest for the Holy Grail. Reunited with the others, Arthur encounters Tim the Enchanter, who warns them about an evil rabbit. They defeat the rabbit with Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and proceed to find the Holy Grail under the seat of an audience member
. Arthur marries the Lady of the Lake aka Guinevere
, Prince Herbert finally gets to sing and marries Sir Lancelot
, and Sir Robin decides to go into musical theater.
Includes examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: Inverted. When Arthur first meets Sir. Galahad, he doesn't believe he is king. King Arthur then calls him a doubting Thomas, to which Galahad corrects him with his real name: Dennis.
- This joke is continued when King Arthur tells him to 'kneel'. Galahad angrily replies with: "Dennis!"
- Adaptational Sexuality: Prince Herbert, in the original movie, was Ambiguously Gay / Camp Straight. In the musical he is confirmed as gay. As is Sir Launcelot, who marries him in the end.
- Acting for Two: Just like in the movie, even with the Composite Character effect going on, most of the actors play several roles.
- Affirmative Action Girl: The Lady of the Lake. The female characters in the movie are at most One Scene Wonders and the Lady of the Lake (though mentioned) didn't appear at all. Which makes her singing about her lack of stage time in the musical even funnier.
- Ascended Extra: Patsy has a much larger role in the musical than he did in the movie, essentially replacing Sir Bedevere as Arthur's constant companion.
- Audience Participation: The knights discover that the Grail's location is underneath a seat in the audience; the exact seat depends on the seat labeling conventions of the theater in question. The person sitting there is subsequently brought onstage and given the award for "Most Helpful Peasant".
- Audience Participation Song: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Life of Brian, because we defy you to find a single Python fan who doesn't know it. The curtain call reprise encourages participation, in fact.
- Award Bait Song: Parodied in "The Song That Goes Like This", but played straight in "Find Your Grail" — or maybe not — have you seen her ham it up?
- Bait And Switch Playbill: Before you can get to the actual playbill in the play booklet, you are treated to a playbill for a (fake) Finnish moosical called Dik Od Triaanenen Fol (Finns Ain't What They Used To Be), "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. Featuring the show-stopping, foot-stomping East Finland Moose Ballet — 45 magnificent creatures in high-stepping harmony, believed to be the greatest display of horn ever seen on an American stage." Reading it will give you the impression you came to see something that is outright torture. With such numbers like "Milk It", “It’s a Bleeding (Economic) Miracle!”, “I Hear Your Nokia But I Can’t Come In” and "Foek You, Farmers," Dik Od Triaanenen Fol is performed with three intermissions - one every two and a half hours.
- Berserk Button: Are you an uncaring, unloving, and/or just plain abusive father? Stay the hell away from Lancelot. Although even if you're not, he'll probably find some reason to kill you...
- The Cast Showoff: In "You Won't Succeed on Broadway", David Hyde Pierce gets to sing, dance, pattersong, and do the Fiddler on the Roof Bottle Dance.
- Composite Character: Galahad, Lancelot, and Robin are all combined with One-Scene Wonder characters played by their respective actors in the movie — hence, Galahad is now the same person as Dennis the anarcho-syndicalist peasant (both of whom were played by Michael Palin in the movie), Robin and Lancelot are the plague victim collector and his quarrelsome customer (Eric Idle and John Cleese, respectively). Mythologically speaking, the Lady of the Lake and Guinevere are combined into one character.
- Contrived Coincidence: The Lady of the Lake is also Guinevere. This combined with purposeful Adaptation Decay of the myth gets lampshaded by one of the knights swearing loudly about how ridiculous this is!
- Crowd Song: The "Fisch Schlapping Song".
- Cut Song: The show had two more songs in the Pre-Broadway run in Chicago, a torch song called "Burn Her" (sung by Sir Bedevere) meant to be their version of the witch scene from the film, and a parody of cabaret songs called "The Cow Song" (sung by the Lady of the Lake's actress) Both are notable because, had they not been cut, it would have been the only times the Lady of the Lake doubled as another character (in this case, the Witch and the Cow), which would have left Arthur as the only character not Acting for Two.
- Demoted to Extra: In Holy Grail, Bedevere was the only knight to make it to the end with King Arthur and led the witch trial. In Spamalot, he doesn't even get his own recruitment scene, and his iconic helmet is missing until Act II.
- Evolving Music
- The lyrics of "The Diva's Lament" — in which the female lead mentions not having won any awards — after the show did quite well at the Tony Awards.
- The UK tour changes "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" to a song about needing stars, since You Have to Have Jews is a predominantly American trope, whereas in Britain most touring musical productions tend to have at least one soap opera actor/reality TV star/broadcast comedian in the cast.
- A tap dance sequence was added for Harry Groener during his Broadway run as King Arthur.
- Innocent Innuendo: Tim yells out "BLOW ME!" He means "Below me."
- Interactive Narrator: The Historian.
- King Arthur: Well, yeah...
- Lame Pun Reaction
Arthur: "It's a symbol!" *cymbal crash* Arthur glares at orchestra pit
- Some versions have Arthur try to rush the pit, but gets held back by Patsy.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: "Come With Me" and "The Song That Goes Like This" is the Lady of the Lake assuring everyone that any knights of the Round Table are not virgins.
- Manly Gay: Lancelot, who up until then gave no hints of his sexuality, and was unaware of it himself. (Unless you buy the more expensive playbook, in which case his dream is explicitly stated to be to open an fabric store.)
- There are some slight hints. In the recruitment line-up, he stands too close to the next knight, with his hand on his shoulder, and has to be asked to back off. He also likes the curtains.
- Medium Awareness: Several characters, leading them to break the fourth wall at times. For example, Prince Herbert's father threatens the folks in the orchestra pit when they start playing for Herbert.
- Mythology Gag: We open with a Non Sequitur segue into material about Finland, a reference to the "Lumberjack Song", and the song "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life".
- "Beautiful bird, the African swallow. Lovely plumage."
- The playbill has a hilarious fake bio page for "DIK OD TRIAANENEN FOL", starring the East Finland Moose Ballet, 45 magnificent creatures in high-stepping harmony. Believed to be the greatest display of horn ever seen on an American stage."
- No Fourth Wall: What did you expect? It's Monty Python.
- Not Quite Dead: 'Not-Dead-Fred', among others. (Namely, everyone else with him on the corpse cart...)
He is not yet dead! [startles the bejesus out of Lancelot, Robin, and the corpse cart loader]
- Patter Song: "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" if you don't have any Jews.
- Precision F-Strike: For the show, John Cleese re-recorded his dialogue as God. Part of it was an ad-libbed "Of course it's a good idea, I'm GOD, you stupid GIT!"
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Launcelot delivers a furious one to the King of Swamp Castle... which, judging by how emotional he gets about it, implies that he probably has some unresolved issues with his own father:
"This poor little chap is your son, sir! All he ever wanted was a little love and affection, but did you ever give it to him? No, no, I'll wager you denied him! You try to kill him, and worse, far worse, you try to marry him off to some girl, some female that he obviously has no feelings for whatsoever! Yes, yes, I know about a little bit of bullying fathers, you bastard! Have you no heart? Have you no human tenderness? Can’t you see that all he’s asking for is a little love and understanding? Is that too much to ask? Is it? Too much! To Ask!!!"
- Scooby Stack: Done by the French Knights when they come upon the wooden rabbit.
- Setting Introduction Song: The show opens with the Fisch Schlapping Song, a big dramatic number about Finland, where none of the action happens.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation
- Shaped Like Itself: "The Song That Goes Like This"
- Shout-Out: "Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show" is Don Quixote. Even funnier is that a revival of Man of La Mancha was going on right down the street when Spamalot premiered in New York.
- And in an off-Broadway traveling version of the show, Don Quixote was one of the former roles of the actor who played King Arthur.
- Amongst the army of French stereotypes that appear alongside their fellow knights as they haul in the Trojan Rabbit is a woman dressed up like Eponine from Les Misérables.
- The bottle dance from Fiddler on the Roof is re-enacted in "You Won't Succeed On Broadway". Just with Grails instead of bottles.
- Traveling productions always acknowledge their current city in some form when the Knights-Who-So-Recently-Said-"Ni!" no longer say "Ni." One tour stop also acknowledged its locale when the Lady of the Lake stopped halfway through her Vegas-style song to sing "Oh I was born in Michigan and to go back there I wish, again."
- Once in New England, a soccer cup final was going on at the time, so the Head Knight ended his rant with "GOOOOOOOAAAALLLLL!...it's one-one in the second half!" to the applause of many men in the audiance.
- In the Boston production, Robin's piano solo in "You Won't Succeed On Broadway" included the opening bars of the theme song for Cheers.
- Shout outs often crop up in improvised segments, such as the French insults. (e.g. "I headbutt you in the chest!")
- The boat in "The Song That Goes Like This" is very similar to that from The Phantom of the Opera. As are the candelabra and chandelier which come on for set dressing (the latter gets shattered by the song's final note).
- In early April 2012, the KWSN's new thing to say ended with "Oh, don't feel bad, [Rick] Santorum, it's not like you had a chance [at the U.S. presidency] in any case," which got a rousing cheer from the San Francisco audience.
- The Knights Who So Recently Said "NI!" are particularly open to adaptation and vary from show to show to include all manner of pop-culture references; one performance had the part end with them being "The Knights Who Say Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Ziiinnggggggg Ni, the Twilight books are terrible, vampires do not sparkle!" This very nearly earned the Knights a mid-show standing ovation.
- In the new touring production The Knights end their spiel with "Wopa Gangnam Style!" to rapturous applause.
- One Denver production had a travel montage that included part of the score from West Side Story.
- When Galahad is recruited, the Lady in the Lake shows up with a cheerleading team named the Laker Girls.
- The 2007-08 Las Vegas production already seemed right at home on the Strip with its take on Camelot (here's what inspired it to begin with), but there were additional shout outs to the city anyway: King Arthur noting that "What happens in Camelot stays in Camelot!" and, in the final stretch, the Lady of the Lake telling him that they've done one better than succeeding on Boradway in making it to Vegas. Also, the production was mounted at Wynn Las Vegas, so the specially-decorated lobby included a dig at owner Steve Wynn's habit of decorating his resorts with fine art with a large, fancy vase marked "Wynn sez sell!"
- The Seattle production in 2014 has a number of references to the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th Man (including 12th Knight signs), as well as legalized gay marriage in Washington State.
- Sight Gag: "Hay!" from "You Won't Succeed On Broadway".
- Lancelot's banana.
- "Skip a little."
- Silly Love Songs: "The Song That Goes Like This" is a parody, specifically of ones in Andrew Lloyd Webber productions.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Most of the characters who were killed off in the movie, survive in the musical.
- Stylistic Suck: When the Holy Hand Grenade kills the Killer Rabbit, the set piece that's in front of it falls over revealing the rabbit's puppeteer. This is clearly intentional, because the puppeteer and the knights stare at each other for a moment, before he points behind them and runs offstage as the knights turn around.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Double subverted. Near the end of Act I, King Arthur sings "Have a drink and a pee/We'll be back for Act III" but there are only two acts. Patsy corrects him and he sings the correct word. The actual playbill actually labels the acts as Act 2 and Act 3 under where the scenes/songs are. However, during the intermission, the animated hand writes "Act III" before correcting itself and erasing the last Roman numeral.
- Suddenly Ethnicity: Patsy turns out to be Jewish. Well, half-Jewish. ( It's not exactly something you say to a heavily armed Christian!)
- Take That: The Quest turns out to be to put on a musical in [insert city location] "as long as it isn't an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical". The cast procedes to cut themselves with their swords and kill themselves to a mock-Webber tune.
- Took a Level in Badass: Though still the Lovable Coward and generally inept knight (who enlisted mainly because he mistakenly thought being a knight was all about singing and dancing, not fighting), Sir Robin has actually Taken A (Slight) Level In Badass compared to his movie incarnation: In Monty Python and the Holy Grail one of his brave deeds was nearly standing up to the Vicious Chicken of Bristol. In Spamalot he actually killed the chicken!
- The Trope Formerly Known as X: The Knights Who So Recently Said "NI!"
- Visual Innuendo: Herbert's fruit hat during "His Name is Lancelot" in the final pose where the hat's banana is sticking up right in front of Lancelot's crotch.
- Visual Pun: When Brother Maynard is taking too long on the foods to be feasted upon, King Arthur tells Maynard to "skip a little". So he... skips in place. For some reason, this is possibly the funniest sight gag in the show, perhaps because the audience is familiar with the scene from the film and this takes the original and adds something on.
- Viva Las Vegas: In "Knights of the Round Table," the design and atmosphere of Camelot is a parody of the Las Vegas casino Excalibur. (And then the play had a run at the Wynn Las Vegas casino resort. See Shout Out above.)
- Wandering Minstrel: As in the movie, Brave, brave Sir Robin has a group of them follow wherever he goes.
- You Have to Have Jews: The Trope Namer, from "You Won't Succeed on Broadway".