Tim Curry and Simon Russell Beale will reprise their Broadway performances as the legendary King Arthur when the triple Tony Award-winning Monty Python musical Spamalot receives its West End premiere at the Palace Theatre this autumn (See News, 20 Jan 2006). At a press launch held at the theatre today (Tuesday 21 February 2006), the show’s writer and original Python Eric Idle launched ticket sales and announced principal casting for the stage show, which is said to be “lovingly ripped off” from the screenplay of the Pythons’ 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Spamalot will open on 16 October 2006 (previews from 2 October), with Tim Curry – returning to the London stage for the first time in over 20 years - as the brave ruler of Camelot. From January 2007, multiple Olivier Award winner Simon Russell Beale will take over the lead in the musical - which is booking to 31 March 2007 – once he has finished his season of plays at the National (See News, 15 Feb 2006).

Spamalot tells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in their quest to find the religious relic – and features a chorus line of dancing divas (with serfs), flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits and a legless knight.

Best known for his dramatic roles at the National, the RSC and the Donmar Warehouse, Russell Beale – who is currently playing Arthur on Broadway (pictured) - has previously appeared in New York in the 2002 double bill of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, Sam Mendes’ final productions as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse which transferred to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in 2003. He made his Broadway debut last year in the National’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers. His previous musical credits include Candide at the National.

Though Curry now works primarily in the US, earlier in his career the British-born actor – who originated the stage role of King Arthur – appeared on the UK stage in Hair, Man Is Man, Titus Andronicus, The White Devil, Galileo, The Maids, The Pirates of Penzance (for which he won the Royal Variety Club Stage Actor of the Year) and The Rocky Horror Show (also NY and LA), as well as in After Haggerty and Travesties for the RSC and The Rivals, Love for Love, The Threepenny Opera and Dalliance at the National. In New York, Curry’s theatre work includes Travesties, Amadeus (for which he was nominated for a Tony Award), The Art of Success, My Favourite Year (Tony nomination) and A Christmas Carol, and he toured the US nationally with Me and My Girl.

Hannah Waddingham (Lautrec, The Beautiful Game, Grease, Tonight’s the Night in the West End) will play the Lady of the Lake; David Birrell (Grand Hotel, Chicago, Follies) will play Patsy; Tom Goodman-Hill (The Cosmonaut’s Last Message, Talk of The City, Pete & Dud: Come Again) will play Sir Lancelot; and Robert Hands (Chicago, Mamma Mia!, Propeller’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) will play Sir Robin.

Spamalot has a book and lyrics by original Python Eric Idle, who has also co-written the music with John Du Prez. The London production reunites the Broadway creative team including set and costume designer Tim Hatley, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone, choreographer Casey Nicholaw and director Mike Nichols. Spamalot, which opened at Broadway’s Shubert Theater in March 2005 – won last year’s Tony for Best Musical (See News, 6 Jun 2005), as well as Best Musical prizes at New York’s Drama Desk and Out Critics’ Circle Awards.

Speaking at today's launch event, Idle said he opened the Python musical on Broadway so that British critics wouldn't "beat (my) life's work with big pointy sticks" and because, he claimed, in America "the people are less discerning, and the critics are more easily bribed". He added that he’s proud of all the acclaim the show has received on Broadway, even though he personally did not win a Tony for his book. "I'm not bitter,” he said. “Brits are used to disappointment. And being ripped off by the Yanks."

Hannah Waddingham told Whatsonstage.com today: "It (the musical) has just completely knocked Broadway for six, it has been so well received at the Schubert Theater and won Tony Awards and also now a Grammy for the original cast recording, so it's great that it is coming home to England, and I'm overwhelmed to be a part of it."

- by Caroline Ansdell


PHOTOS FROM TODAY'S LAUNCH:

Hannah Waddingham will play the Lady of the Lake