The play begins with a historian giving a brief overview of medieval England. An idyllic Scandinavian village appears, with gaily dressed Finnish villagers singing and dancing to the "Fisch Schlapping Song." The Historian returns, irritated, and tells them he said "England", not Finland. The villagers disperse and the pastoral forest is immediately replaced by a dreary, dark village with penitent monks in hooded robes chanting Latin prayers and hitting themselves in the face with wooden boards. King Arthur travels the land with his servant Patsy ("King Arthur's Song"), trying to recruit Knights of the Round Table to join him in Camelot and his quest for the Holy Grail. He encounters various strange people, including a pair of sentries who are more interested in debating whether two swallows could successfully carry a coconut than in guarding their castles. Sir Robin and Sir Lancelot meet as they attempt to dispose of the sickly Not Dead Fred ("He Is Not Dead Yet"). They agree to become Knights of the Round Table together.
Meanwhile, Arthur attempts to convince a peasant named Dennis Galahad that he (Arthur) is king of England because the Lady of the Lake gave him Excalibur, the sword given only to the man fit to rule England. However, Dennis and his mother, Mrs. Galahad, are political radicals and deny that any king who has not been elected by the people has any legitimate right to rule over them. To settle the issue, Arthur has the Lady of the Lake and her Laker Girls appear to turn Dennis into a knight ("Come With Me"). Cheered on by the girls ("Laker Girls Cheer"), the Lady of the Lake turns Dennis into Sir Galahad and together, they sing a generic Broadway love song ("The Song That Goes Like This"). Together, with Sir Bedevere and Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Show (a knight resembling Don Quixote who promptly apologizes and then leaves), they make up the Knights of the Round Table ("All for One").
The five knights gather in Camelot, a deliberately anachronistic place resembling Las Vegas's Camelot-inspired Excalibur resort, complete with showgirls and oversized dice ("Knights of the Round Table" / "The Song That Goes Like This (Reprise)"). In the midst of their revelry, they are contacted by God (voiced by John Cleese) who tells them to locate the Holy Grail. Urged on by the Lady of the Lake ("Find Your Grail"), the Knights set off. They are viciously taunted by lewd French soldiers at a castle they come to, and attempt to retaliate by sending them a large wooden rabbit in the style of the Trojan Horse; however, they realize after the fact that it was not as simple as leaving the rabbit and walking away - they were supposed to be inside of it. Defeated, they leave in a hurry when the French begin throwing various barnyard animals - including cows - at them ("Run Away").
Sir Robin and his minstrels follow King Arthur and Patsy into a "dark and very expensive forest" where they are separated. King Arthur meets the Knights who say Ni, who demand a shrubbery. King Arthur despairs of finding one, but Patsy cheers him up ("Always Look on the Bright Side of Life") and they find a shrubbery shortly after. The Knights accept it, but next demand that King Arthur put on a musical and bring it to Broadway (in the United Kingdom, this became a West End musical; on the tour, they must put on a "Broadway musical", inferring that it need only be Broadway-style).
The Black Knight appears but King Arthur more or less defeats him by cutting off both his arms and legs, impaling his still-alive torso on a door, and leaving to find Sir Robin. Sir Robin, after wandering the forest for some time ("Brave Sir Robin"), finds King Arthur and insists that it would be impossible for them to accomplish this next task, since you need Jews for a successful Broadway musical ("You Won't Succeed on Broadway"). This song includes several parodies of the 1963 musical Fiddler on the Roof including a dance not unlike the bottle dance shown during its wedding scene (with grails replacing the bottles). King Arthur and Patsy promptly set off in search of Jews. While the Lady of the Lake laments her lack of stage time ("The Diva's Lament"), Sir Lancelot receives a letter from what he assumes is a young damsel in distress. He is a little surprised to find that the damsel is actually an effeminate young man named Herbert ("Where Are You?" / "Here Are You") whose overbearing, music-hating father, the king, is forcing him into an arranged marriage. Lancelot advocates for Herbert after the king returns, and Lancelot is outed as a homosexual in the process ("His Name Is Lancelot").
King Arthur begins to give up hope of ever putting on the Broadway musical and laments that he is alone, even though Patsy has been with him the entire time ("I'm All Alone"). The Lady of the Lake appears and tells Arthur that he and the Knights have been in a Broadway musical all along. Patsy also reveals he is Jewish, but didn't want to say anything to Arthur because that's "not really the sort of thing you say to a heavily-armed Christian." All that's left is for King Arthur to find the Grail and marry someone. After picking up on some not-too-subtle hints, Arthur decides to marry the Lady of the Lake after he finds the Grail ("Twice In Every Show").
Reunited with his Knights, Arthur meets Tim the Enchanter who warns them of the danger of an evil rabbit. When the rabbit bites a knight's head off, Arthur uses the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch against it, knocking down a nearby hill and revealing that the "evil rabbit" was actually a puppet controlled by a suprised puppeteer. A large stone block showing a combination of letters and numbers is also revealed. The letters vary from show to show, but in the Broadway production and on the tour it is either A101, B101, C101 or D101. In the West End Production a word is revealed - DONE, CONE or BONE, referring to D1, C1 and B1 respectively. After pondering the final clue, Arthur admits that they're "a bit stumped with the clue thing" and asks God to "give them a hand". A large hand points to the audience and Arthur realizes that the letters and numbers refer to a seat number in the audience. The grail is "found" (with some sleight of hand) under the seat and the person sitting in the seat is rewarded ("The Holy Grail"). Arthur marries the Lady of the Lake (who reveals that her name is Guinevere), Lancelot marries Herbert, and Sir Robin decides to pursue a career in musical theatre ("Act 2 Finale/ Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Company Bow)").
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