When Martin Esslin coined the phrase “theater of the absurd” in 1960, he was attempting to describe a style championed by such notable playwrights as Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and Eugene Ionesco.
Before the decade was out, however, six British comics would give new meaning to Esslin’s expression with the television sketch comedy known as “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
The enormous popularity of that series led to the creation of numerous record albums, books and films that explored satire, surreal humor and dark comedy. The brainchild of Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and a quartet of other funny men also inspired the 2005 Broadway musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
That Tony Award-winning musical will fill the third slot of Lyric Theatre’s 2014 summer season. Directed by Ashley Wells and choreographed by Brian Barry, the outrageous comedy stars Steve Blanchard as King Arthur, Meredith Inglesby as the Lady of the Lake, Monte Riegel Wheeler as Lancelot and Matthew Alvin Brown as Robin. Zak Sandler is music director.
“The show is a series of little skits that you have to fit together carefully,” Wells said. “There’s also a fine line between creating something new and staying true to what it is. We certainly want to do things right for all the Monty Python fans. It takes a while to find the timing, but once you get the rhythm right, the jokes should land.”
Drawn largely from the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the musical spoofs the famous Arthurian legend. In it, King Arthur and four of his Knights of the Round Table set out in search of the Holy Grail.
Not surprisingly, their travels are frequently interrupted by such Pythonesque creations as a French taunter, the Knights of Ni, a killer rabbit, Mrs. Galahad, some Laker Girls and even God himself.
And while audiences will recognize Arthur, Galahad and Lancelot, these are not the familiar characters created by T.H. White in his 1958 novel “The Once and Future King” or the principals in Lerner and Loewe’s 1960 musical “Camelot.”
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‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’
2 and 8 p.m. Saturday.