SALT LAKE CITY — The Grand Theatre's newest production — Monty Python's "Spamalot" — is not for those who are easily offended, according to Interim Director Seth Miller.
"It’s not what you’d call a ‘politically correct’ show," Miller said. "In fact, it goes out of its way to be politically incorrect, but that’s part of the humor."
"Spamalot," the 2005 Tony Award winner for best musical, is a comedy based on the 1975 movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," a parody of the legend of King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail. The musical is the brainchild of Python member Eric Idle.
Monty Pythons fans will recognize much-loved scenes from the movie such as a heated conversation with a peasant about the ethics of monarchy and French soldiers taunting King Arthur and his knights.
Miller said the Grand chose "Spamalot" primarily based on the theater's past success with a theatrical version of Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein."
"We felt like 'Spamalot' was kind of the same kind of humor — a little ridiculous and silly and just something that people could just come and enjoy and forget about life and have a good time," Miller said. "We liked that it was a comedy and something fun and lighthearted to end our season with."
The cast features "returning Grand Theatre favorites" such as David Hanson as King Arthur, Miller said. Most recently, Hanson directed the Grand's "Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" and played Italian lawyer Alfieri in the theater's production of "A View From the Bridge." He also played Edna Turnblad in the theater's 2016 production of "Hairspray."
“He’s been in so many shows and directed so many shows that he should probably just have an office here," Miller said.
Miller also highlighted the show's director, Jamie Rocha Allan, who is originally from London.
Allan grew up watching Monty Python reruns on television and saw "Spamalot" years ago when the show came to England.
“I fell in love with it, and it’s always kind of been in the back of my head,” Allan said.
Miller said Allan's background adds a unique element to the Grand Theatre's production "because our perspective as Americans on Monty Python is very different than British people’s perspective on Monty Python."
Allan said Monty Python is "quintessentially British." One distinctive element he emphasized was the role class plays in the show's humor.
For example, each of the knights King Arthur recruits for his quest starts out with a cockney accent. But once they become knights, their accents change.
“Suddenly they’ve got kind of posh accents because now they’re knights and that’s the way knights talk,” Allan said.
He also pointed to the way the servants, such as King Arthur's loyal sidekick Patsy, and female characters in the show meet every whim of the "upper-class twits."
“The relationship, the kind of interplay of class, is a really important aspect of English identity," Allan said.
Breezy Bassett, a member of the ensemble, agreed that Allan's perspective was valuable for the cast.
"He’s really kind of opened our eyes to what Monty Python is all about," Bassett said. "I think he’s brought out the best in us as a whole group.”
Bassett grew up watching Monty Python movies, and "Spamalot" has been a "dream show" for her ever since she saw it at the Capitol Theatre during its national tour.
But despite her years of experience with the show, she still said Allan's direction has changed the way she understands it. Allan has taught the cast that Monty Python is "all about the setup"; many jokes that get set up in the first act don't get a resolution until the second act, Bassett said.
"Through him we are really getting to understand the little intricacies of Monty Python and how all of the little things that they do really set up the big picture," Bassett said.
She called the show "brilliant" and said there's something in it for everyone.Comment on this story
"It’s silly; it’s fun," Bassett said. "It’s just a good time.”
Miller noted that junior high and high school students and educators can attend Grand Theatre productions for free.
He also advised theatergoers to avoid taking anything in "Spamalot" too seriously.
"Just come and have a good time," he said.
If you go …
What: Monty Python's "Spamalot"
When: May 17-June 9
Where: Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State St.
How much: $9-$23