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Theatre / Spamalot

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"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, with the production directed by Mike Nichols.

The 'plot' is introduced by the historian, who gives an overview of the setting: medieval England. King Arthur and his servant Patsy arrive on the scene in search of knights for the round table. They 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 convinces the politically active peasant Dennis to become Sir Galahad, with help from the Lady of the Lake. 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, or in the 2023 revival, Steve Martin) who wants them to search for the Holy Grail. After some silly encounters and surprising discoveries, Arthur and the knights end up finding the Grail in an unexpected place.

The trope list that goes like this:

  • Accent Depundent:
    • Invoked "A'ms fo' th' poor!" Collects the Black Knight's dismembered arms.
    • Similarly, the "England"/"Finland" confusion that starts a bait-and-switch opening about a fake Finnish play.
      "I SAID 'ENGLAND'."
  • 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 Alternate Ending: The original film had an infamously anticlimactic ending due to budget constraints, with Arthur and his men getting arrested before they could retrieve the Holy Grail after Robin and Galahad had already died trying to cross the Bridge of Death. In the show, they actually do find the Grail in the end, no major character dies, and every character gets their own happy ending (Arthur marries Guinevere while Lancelot marries Herbert, and Robin pursues a successful career in musical theatre).
  • Adaptational 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!
  • Adaptational Heroism: Lancelot. When Herbert's father attempts Offing the Offspring twice, Lance takes offense and valiantly defends Herbert to homoerotic degrees. In the film, he merely saw it as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Prince Herbert, in the original movie, was Ambiguously Gay / Camp Straight. In the musical, he is confirmed as gay. As is Sir Lancelot, who marries him in the end.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The original film involved a number of barely-related skits and tangents, first around Arthur's quest for the knights and then for the quest for the grail. The musical focuses more on the grail quest and makes what sketches from the film they do include more relevant to the plot (i.e. The anarchist peasant becomes Galahad, the rescue of Prince Herbert leads to Lancelot coming out and marrying Herbert). In addition, the entire subplot of the murdered historian leading to the knights' arrest by police is taken out.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Slightly more emotional development is given to the characters, such as Arthur and Lancelot getting romantic plotlines and Arthur having a crisis of confidence during Act 2, where he is comforted by Patsy.
  • Adapted Out: Several of the minor characters from the movie don't appear in the stage show, such as the three-headed knight, the Old Man from Scene 24, and the ladies of Castle Anthrax. Some of their lines have been given to other characters. Some of the female ensemble members in the original production and tours, however, wear costumes directly modeled after Zoot, Dingo, and the ladies of Castle Anthrax in some scenes, particularly during the songs Find Your Grail and You Won't Succeed on Broadway.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Geography: "Finland" refers to the titular country as Scandinavian, even though Finland isn't actually a part of Scandinavia, which comprises Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Patsy has a much larger role in the musical than he did in the movie, where he had exactly one line (you know which one), essentially replacing Sir Bedevere as Arthur's constant companion. The Lady of the Lake was only mentioned briefly in one scene, and Guinevere didn't appear at all (not to be confused with Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Show/Movie, who was given a single picture in the movie and is actually (briefly) present in the show).
    • Robin too gets more of a spotlight, since he goes to Camelot with Lancelot and gets a solo number in "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" which is essential to the plot.
  • 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 (for instance, the crucial clue might be "Done", which actually refers to seat D-1). The person sitting there is subsequently brought onstage and given the award for "Most Helpful Peasant" (The seat is changed every show to avoid fans of the show from choosing said seat).
  • Audience Participation Song: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's 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: In the original Broadway production, 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...
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Often. In particular, Herbert's father yells "STOP IT" at the orchestra when they start to accompany Herbert's singing.
  • BSoD Song: "Diva's Lament (What Ever Happened To My Part?)" and "I'm All Alone" for the Lady of the Lake and Arthur, respectively. They're both played for laughs, natch.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Arthur, who is somewhat less straight-faced and serious than his movie counterpart, has a tendency towards this.
  • 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".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Patsy keeps his Jewish heritage a secret because it's not exactly something you admit to heavily-armed Christians during the Middle Ages.
  • 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.
  • Don't Be Ridiculous: Arthur invokes this trope when Patsy suggests they could build a shrubbery out of cats.
    Arthur: ...where are we supposed to find a cat?
  • 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; specifically, Sara Ramirez winning a Tony.
    • The UK tour changes "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" to a song about needing stars.
    • A tap dance sequence was added for Harry Groener during his Broadway run as King Arthur.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: In "Diva's Lament", the Lady of the Lake considers going to the pub.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: After the Black Knight's arms are lopped off, a monk enters from stage left calling "A'MS FOR THE POOR!" and happily gathers up his chopped-off limbs.note 
  • Innocent Innuendo: Tim yells out "BLOW ME!" He means "Below me."
  • Interactive Narrator: The Historian.
  • It's All About Me: "I'm All Alone" is made of this trope, with King Arthur singing about how he's all alone... and completely ignoring the fact that Patsy's there beside him as always.
  • Lame Pun Reaction
    Arthur: "It's a symbol!" *cymbal crash* Arthur glares at orchestra pit.
    • Some versions have Arthur try to rush the pit only to be held back by Patsy.
  • Lighter and Softer: It's just as ridiculous as the movie it's based on, if not more so, but the comedy is not quite as dark here. Far fewer people are killed off for comedic effect, and even the ones who are killed off generally turn out to be Not Quite Dead, for equally comedic effect. The general tone is also notably less cynical, and where the movie had a Gainax Ending that was somewhere between a Downer Ending and a "Shaggy Dog" Story, here the ending is unambiguously happy.
  • Literal Metaphor: In "I'm All Alone," Arthur sings about how there's "no one to share my heavy load"... and Patsy pointedly glances at the mountain of baggage he's carrying for Arthur.
  • Manly Gay: Lancelot, who up until then gave no hints of his sexuality, and was completely unaware of it himself. (Unless you buy the more expensive playbook, in which case his dream is explicitly stated to be to open a 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.
  • Marshmallow Hell: In some versions, The Lady of the Lake shoves Galahad's face into her bosom in "Come With Me".
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Racist: In the 2023 revival, when the lead French taunter calls the heroes "Kunnnnnnnnnigits!" (with a emphasis on the "Nig" sound), Arthur and Galahad (who are played by people of color) start to rush forward in offense before another character stops them and explains he mean "knights".
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The show recycles the Monty Python and the Holy Grail gag, and they also sometimes let the air out of the music. Later, during the big finale, the father comes barging in one last time, yelling "Stop it! Stop it! NO MORE BLOODY SINGING!" At which point Lancelot clonks him on the head.
  • 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".
    • The Finland Song first appeared on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album. This version of the song features references to the Fish-Slapping Dance from Flying Circus.
    • "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.
    • The play is also sponsored by Spam (hence the name), and Lancelot's patsy Concord finds a Lunchable with "spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, and spam."
    • The head of the Knights of Ni says they are now the Knights Who Say, "Ekke-ekke-ekke-ekke-ptang-zoop-boing-olé-biscuitbarrel", the latter two words in reference to "Election Night Special".
  • Naked People Are Funny: In the 2023 revival, the puppeteer for the Killer Rabbit is revealed to be fully nude. Well, actually, just wearing flesh covered briefs over his naughty bits that he conveniently covers with the puppet.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In the original production, during "You Won't Succeed on Broadway", the minstrel who plays the critic who says, "You're doin' great!" puts on a Jewfro wig, glasses, fake nose, and bushy mustache to make him resemble Gene Shalit.
  • No Fourth Wall: What did you expect? It's Monty Python.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
    • Steve Martin's prerecorded interpretation of God keeps his American accent.
    • Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer's attempt at a British accent is almost nonexistent.
  • 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]
  • Only Sane Man: Patsy seems to have taken over this role from Arthur, who is still one of the more grounded characters in the show, but notably more likely than his movie counterpart to get swept up in the silliness of it all. Patsy, though, is more often than not the voice of reason... not that he has much luck getting people to listen to him.
  • 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!!!"
  • Remake Cameo: In the original Broadway production, God was voiced by a prerecorded John Cleese, later redubbed by Eric Idle for the tour. In the 2023 Broadway revival, God was voiced by Steve Martin.
  • Rescue Romance: Lance and Herbert fall for each other after the former rescues the latter from an unwanted Arranged Marriage.
  • 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. Played somewhat straight by the historian describing the historical/meteorological climate of England immediately before, although it's all spoken word over music and not actually sung.
  • 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.
    • Another iteration at a college in California portrayed Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show as a Jedi Knight, complete with robes and lightsaber.
    • 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.
      • In the 2023 revival, Sir Robin's piano cadenza is replaced by Robin doing a bit with the titular fiddler, since Michael Urie can't play piano.
    • 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 audience.
    • 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.
      • The 2015 UK touring version had them add the ENTIRE first verse and chorus of "Itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, yellow polka dot bikini" in at least one production, while stand-up comedian Joe Pasquale, who played Arthur, looked increasingly gobsmacked. Luckily for him, it's a well-known song so he could remember the lyrics.
      • One American production in 2016 had the Knight Who So Recently Said "NI!", instead of the usual nonsensical words, quote a condensed version of the many speeches delivered by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, occasionally altered to reference the musical's story and setting (e.g. building a wall around Camelot, and making Camelot pay for it). It was difficult to hear some of his lines over the audience roaring with laughter. When King Arthur tries to repeat back the knight's new (and rather lengthy) title, he trails off, sighs, and mutters that kings are supposed to be impartial.
      • In the new touring production, The Knights end their spiel with "Wopa Gangnam Style!" to rapturous applause.
      • For one college production, The Knights begin singing the opening theme song of The Lion King (1994).
      • During Clay Aiken's first night as Sir Robin on Broadway, The Head Knight went through the usual gibberish, then started to sing "Invisible," which drove the many Aiken fans in the audience wild.
    • 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 Broadway 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.
  • Silly Love Songs: "The Song That Goes Like This" is a parody, specifically of ones in Andrew Lloyd Webber productions.
  • Small Start, Big Finish: Parodied in "The Song that Goes Like This", where Sir Galahad sings that in every show there's a song that starts "soft and low" and "ends with a kiss". By the final verse he and the Lady of the Lake are complaining that the song is too long and loud.
  • 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!)
  • Switch to English: In the Swedish production, God was still played by John Cleese, forcing them to briefly do this.
    Arthur: ...You speak English, O Lord?
    God: Course I speak English, I'm GOD!
    Arthur: Shit. [to Bedevere, in Swedish] Do you have a phrasebook?
  • Take That!:
    • The Quest turns out to be to put on a musical in [insert city location] "but not an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical"note . The cast proceed to cut themselves with their swords and kill themselves to a mock-Webber tune, or just cover their ears and scream. "The Song That Goes Like This" is also a dig at Webber's sentimental love ballads, complete with a gondola and a chandelier.
    • In the 2023 revival, in "You Won't Succeed on Broadway", during a dance break, a marquee appears showing several famous Jewish Broadway personalities such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Mel Brooks, Stephen Sondheim, Joel Grey, and ending with former Congressman George Santos, a reference to both his claim of his grandmother being a holocaust survivor as well as his own claim of being one of the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
  • That Poor Cat: Played once during the "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" number in some productions.
  • The Trope Formerly Known as X: The Knights Who So Recently Said "NI!"
  • This Is a Song: Several songs fall under this, most notably "The Song That Goes Like This".
  • Unexplained Recovery: Fred receives two taps on the head from Lancelot the "homicidal bastard" but he manages to come to because he's "not dead yet!"
  • 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.
    • Also, this bit from "You Won't Succeed On Broadway".note 
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Monty Pythons Spamalot