Bill Haber, Producer

Producer scores Holy Grail of Broadway in lavishly staged Monty Python skit

By Published on .

It's definitely a Broadway first: success helped along by coconuts and Spam, that's processed meat product, not junk e-mail to the under-30 set. But what else would you expect from a live musical version of a Monty Python flick?

In an unusually quick move for the Broadway world, producer Bill Haber took just 24 hours to tell Eric Idle, one of the founding Python members, that he was good to go on producing the live musical version of "Monty Python & the Holy Grail," now known by its stage name at the Schubert Theatre marquee as "SpamAlot."

The biggest challenge facing the marketing plan was that "we had to honor the Python irreverence without going so far that we wouldn't attract the other avid theatergoers," says Mr. Haber. With the show pretty much sold out through September, the Haber-led team hasn't had to shift the marketing to focus on the "singing dancing romance of it" quite yet, but it's coming. The seats have been filled with Python fans as well as people prodded on by the pack of Tonys the show captured. The show grosses about $1 million per week.

Up till now Mr. Haber and his team have indulged in a bit of controlled silly that captured a whole lot of attention, including a deal with Hormel to create SpamAlot-branded Spam golden honey grail and an anniversary stunt that landed the show in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest coconut orchestra in history. The feat involved about 1,200 fans banging complimentary coconut halves together outside the Schubert Theatre. Coconut halves are banged together during the performance to mimic a horse galloping for King Arthur; and the coconuts are favorite items at theater gift shop. An extensive Web site has a fun interface, but also packs in supporting information.

Early on deals with Yahoo to push ticket sales landed the show on the search engine's start page. Meanwhile, New York's Serino Coyne, which bills itself as the largest ad agency specializing in live theater, created a campaign that was "irreverent and very Monty Pythony," says Mr. Haber, with ads as slapstick as the show.

And what has Mr. Haber learned from all this irreverence? "Not to get too complicated, to simplify the message."

Selected For: 'SpamAlot'

* Early ticket buyers driven by Yahoo link.

* PR promotion of Hormel product and silly ads capture Python spirit.
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