Chicago premiere for Monty Python’s Spamalot

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Monty Python's Spamalot, the musical being billed as "officially ripped-off from the internationally famous comedy team's most famous motion picture, Monty Python and the Holy Grail," will have its world premiere at Chicago's Shubert Theatre this December, prior to a Broadway bow.

Spamalot has a book by Python member Eric Idle, based on the screenplay from the film, with music and lyrics by Idle and John Du Prez.

The Holy Grail screenplay was written by Monty Python creators Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

Spamalot is set to open in Chicago on December 21 and run until January 16, 2005.

Like the movie, the stage musical takes a skewered look at the time of Camelot and King Arthur and features Arthur and his band of knights as they embark on a quest for the Holy Grail. In the stage version of this epic quest, the group will encounter a chorus line of legless knights, men in tights, killer rabbits and some dancing divas who will perform in what Idle promises to be "almost as good as anything else opening in Chicago that week".

In addition to his work with Monty Python (1969-1974), Idle has written the play Pass the Butler, which played in the West End, as well as three novels and, as he put it, "many songs too rude to mention". He recently toured America with Eric Idle's Greedy Bastard Tour.

As for his current project, "I like the title Spamalot a lot," Idle noted. "We tested it with audiences on my recent US tour and they liked it as much as I did, which is gratifying. After all, they are the ones who will be paying Broadway prices to see the show. [The title] comes from a line in the movie which goes: 'I eat jam and ham and Spam a lot.'"

Spamalot is being directed by Mike Nichols and produced by Ostar Boyett Productions. The score will feature entirely new music and lyrics, along with three songs from the 1975 film. The set design is by Tim Hatley, who won both the Tony and Olivier Awards for his set of Private Lives, starring Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan, in 2002.

John Du Prez has composed the scores of more than 20 feature films including A Fish Called Wanda and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I, II and III. He has worked with Idle since 1978.

Among Nichols' directing accolades are an Oscar for The Graduate, six Tony Awards and a Director's Guild of America Award for the television adaptation of the stage work Angels in America. He has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the DGA.

Casting for Spamalot is expected to begin shortly.