Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.
What Mel Brooks did for Yiddish humor in ''The Producers," Eric Idle does for British irreverence in ''Monty Python's Spamalot."
Idle makes a few more compromises than did Brooks in turning a movie -- ''Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which he co-wrote with the five other Pythoners -- into a musical. But ''Spamalot" is so sagaciously silly and so shrewdly buoyant that you don't need to have seen any of the Python movies or TV shows to get in on the fun, which is considerable.
What's more, the touring production that opened in Boston Wednesday night has everything that the original Broadway show had except for marquee names like Tim Curry, Hank Azaria, and David Hyde Pierce.
Like ''The Producers," ''Spamalot" is not one of those musicals with a classic soundtrack. John Du Prez's tunes serve mainly as a showcase for Idle's witty lyrics and as a springboard to send up other musicals, some affectionately (''West Side Story") and some much less so (''Phantom of the Opera").
At the same time both Du Prez and Idle, who also wrote the book, keep the energy high, frequently quoting from the film -- the horseless horsemen, the knights who say ''Ni" -- while adding bits of new stuff to make the material viable as a musical. There's something of a tacked-on feeling to dance numbers by the Lady of the Lake and the Laker Girls, as well as a stop at a Vegas casino done up as Camelot, but it's all enjoyably spirited.
The spirit might be even jauntier here than it was in the Broadway version. Michael Siberry actually acts as King Arthur, unlike Curry, who more or less phoned it in. Rick Holmes is a striking substitute for Azaria as Lancelot and a host of nemeses, including the French Taunter. Bradley Dean, Jeff Dumas, and Tom Deckman are terrific in several parts and Pia Glenn is ravishing as the Lady of the Lake, if not the drop-dead knockout that Sara Ramirez was.
The one person I found myself missing was Hyde Pierce, who didn't seem all that integral to the Broadway show. The character of Sir Robin is intentionally bland, and while David Turner isn't bad, there is something special about Hyde Pierce's abilities as a straight man, particularly in his show-stopping second-act number. Many of the songs reference their place in the musical -- ''The Song That Goes Like This" and ''The Diva's Lament (Whatever Happened to My Part)" -- but Sir Robin's explanation of why ''You Won't Succeed on Broadway" is the best number in the show. (We won't spoil the punchline.)
It's true that the Python people had a particularly mischievous sensibility on film and in the TV show that is tamed for the theater. ''Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was a mordant song delivered on the cross in ''Life of Brian." Here it's a song in keeping with the basically optimistic message of most successful Broadway musicals.
Nevertheless, there's a wink-wink, nudge-nudge aspect at play even here. It doesn't after all, shy away from the lyric, ''For life is quite absurd, / And death's the final word."
That's basically the Python creed and one that Eric Idle and Mel Brooks could both sum up by saying, ''It is to laugh."
And in ''Spamalot," it is to laugh a lot.
Ed Siegel can be reached at email@example.com.