Perhaps inspired by the success that fellow Python castmate Eric Idle has had with his Broadway show Spamalot, John Cleese has turned his attentions to the Great White Way as well, and is in the process of adapting his hit comic caper film A Fish Called Wanda into a stage musical.
For the better part of the past year, Cleese and his daughter Camilla have been working on the script adapting the film, which Cleese co-wrote, and have reached the point where they are beginning to work with a song writer, comic Bill Bailey.
In a statement to the British comedy site Chortle, Cleese said-
It appears that my daughter, Camilla, is doing her best to outpace her dear old dad at every turn. We’ve just completed the book for the musical of A Fish Called Wanda and I’m pleased that Camilla hasn’t completely stolen all of my dignity in writing so brilliantly. She’s left me a few scraps to hang onto to keep me warm at night. Soon, we’ll start to work on the songs for the show with Bill Bailey, who, among his many achievements, is an honourary member of the Society of Crematorium Organists. This musical is destined to be a hit amongst funeral directors.
Bailey is probably best known to fans of British comedy for his supporting role in the Simon Pegg-Jessica Stevenson series Spaced and starring opposite Dylan Moran on Blacks Books. He also had a small role in Pegg’s comedy Hot Fuzz. Bailey’s stage act often features music, with the comic playing many musical instruments.
Cleese is hoping to eventually open the show for a tryout in San Diego before moving it to Broadway and London’s West End.
Having seen Spamalot on Broadway twice, I am hoping that Cleese and Bailey will be able to capture lightening in a bottle the way that Idle managed. It will be tough, as I have feeling that new Broadway shows have a failure rate second only to the restaurant industry. Also, Spamalot pulls from all of Python’s oeuvre, not just its inspiration Monty Python And The Holy Grail. A Fish Called Wanda musical will very probably be just confined to the film itself. But even with that structure there are still plenty of elements that could make an entertaining show. Can you just imagine a chorus line of John Cleese look-a-likes doing a dance number with nothing on but socks and a strategically placed framed photograph?