By Carol-Ann Rudy
Given the tone of Spamalot, Las Vegas may be the best home, after Broadway, for the Tony winning production to play. Mike Nichols, with many hits behind him, will direct. This irreverently funny hit heads to the Wynn Hotel and casino where owner Steve Wynn is building a “Spamalot Experience and Grail Theatre” designed by Tim Hatley and Eric Idle. The lyrics and Grammy Award-winning score are by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. It will be launched this spring with an open run.
Preview performances are scheduled to begin March 8 with Opening Night on March 31. The regular performance schedule begins April 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets became available January 16. and range in price from $49 to $99. The 12 performances a week will be abbreviated like most Vegas musicals, to run at 90 minutes but will retain all the production numbers.
This is the second year that Wynn has made an end run and scored with an outstanding musical. The first was another Tony Award winner, Avenue Q, which ran for nine months and closed May 28, 2006. The new Grail Theatre is being adapted from the theatre that housed Avenue Q.
Replacing Tim Curry as King Arthur, John O’Hurley is sure to shine. For anyone not familiar with Spamalot, this send-up of the Arthurian legend was written by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. It was first produced as the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The name Spamalot came from a line in the movie, “We eat ham and jam and spam a lot.” It tells the tale of King Arthur who sets out to find the Holy Grail with his servant Patsy (doubling as his horse), recruiting knights and other assorted oddities along the way.
Can this production with its cast of lusty maidens, psychopathic knights, and killer rabbits match the success of Mamma Mia, the most successful Broadway-to-Vegas production ever? Usually producers in Vegas are mum about closings; however, a closing date for Mamma Mia, slated to run through 2008, has been posted, presumably with the hope of boosting ticket sales. It will close sometime in August of this year. Mamma Mia, based on the 70’s music of Abba, has been playing at the Mandalay Bay Hotel for more than five and a half years.
Can Spamalot match the success of “Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular,” based on another Broadway blockbuster, The Phantom of the Opera? It has been playing at the Venetian Hotel since its opening June 24, 2006. The production directed by Tony Award winner Harold Prince features groundbreaking special effects including an on-stage lake and exploding Paris Opera House chandelier, all set in a 25-30 million dollar theatre.
Grosses for Vegas productions are not made public in the way that Broadway productions are, so the best measure of popularity and success may be the length of the run and whether or not a production is terminated early. It remains to be seen whether Spamalot can emulate the Vegas box office success of blockbusters Phantom and Mamma Mia, but how can you miss—with Vegas nights and men in tights!