Big Show in a Little Theater “Spamalot” Rides in (Horseless, of Course) to the Cygnetby Brie Stimson May 28, 2018
Killer rabbits, the Knights Who Say “Ni,” the French Taunter and Tim the Enchanter will all be on hand this month when Monty Python’s “Spamalot” opens at the Cygnet Theatre on June 27. Lovingly taken from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the musical is as much a trip down comedy memory lane as it is funny.
Director and star Sean Murray (King Arthur) told me he first got to know the musical when he was offered the part of King Arthur at the Moonlight in Vista several years ago, “and had absolutely the time of my life,” he said. “I didn’t want it to end because it was just a blast.”
He started thinking about how they could produce the show at the Cygnet – a much smaller space than Moonlight. In Moonlight’s show, the production team had arranged to get the original sets and costumes from the Broadway one. “The goal of that production was to remount the Broadway show as close as possible, … but because the theater is so different in terms of size and number of people we can hire, we have to be able to reduce the show and make it fit into a small space as a chamber show and still capture the essence of the show – if not find a new hook into it.”
He reduced the chorus to eight members and downsized some of the sets. “In the original, there were all these giant castles flying in and out, special effects and things.” Instead, he explained, they’ll have miniature castles that technicians will bring onstage and then try to sneak off without being seen. And he wants to bring a bit of the low budget feel of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” (their original sketch TV show) to the production. “I started thinking the look of this show could be scaled and changed to feel more like the way the ‘Flying Circus’ looked on television … Part of the joke can be putting on a big show in a little theater.” They also plan to use more video projections and Terry Gilliam-style animations as a way of forwarding the story. “You make it almost part of the premise that this show is too big for us,” he laughed. “It’s very much ‘Flying Circus,’ acknowledging and then making fun of the limitations.”
Murray thinks the jokes will work well in the intimate space, allowing the actors to make better eye contact and engage with the audience – and fair warning – an audience member will get pulled up onstage. “It’s very hands on,” he laughs. King Arthur will make a congratulatory speech to the lucky audience member who will then get sung to and is finally rewarded with a Polaroid taken with the knights.
Murray doesn’t plan to make any changes to the script. “Eric Idle did a great job of creating this whole new thing out of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ All of the juicy, good parts from the movie are in the play, but the play has its own set of brand new stuff to enjoy.”
People just connect with the characters, he says, and when they did a staged reading of “Spamalot” last summer the audience became very engaged. “Some of the lines are so famous sometimes they say them along with you. The Knights Who Say “Ni,” (‘We want a shrubbery!’) Tim the Enchanter and the Killer Rabbit (‘the most foul, cruel and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on’) and the French Taunter guards (‘your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries’), and those characters that are in the film are in the play,” he says. “There’s something about Python’s silliness that is just – there’s a lot of intelligence behind it. On the surface it’s a lot of very silly things … but underneath it there’s a lot of – well really deep underneath it don’t get me wrong – there’s political commentary, there’s social commentary going on, but again it’s buried pretty deep down underneath it.”
The main message of “Spamalot,” according to Murray, is finding your own grail. “Whatever the grail is to you, that thing that you aspire to. The message – if there is a message – is that it’s up to you to go out and find your grail, whatever that is to you.”
The rest of the cast includes David Humphrey (Sir Galahad/Black Knight/King of Swamp Castle), Evan White (Sir Lancelot/2nd Sentry), Anthony Methvin (Sir Bedevere/Mrs. Galahad/Concorde/Knight of Ni), Bryan Banville (Historian/Prince Herbert/Not Dead Fred/French Taunter), Donny Gersonde (Male Ensemble/Tim the Enchanter), James Saba (Sir Robin/1st Sentry/Brother Maynard/2nd Guard), Jonathan Sangster (Patsy/Mayor of Finland), Christine Hewitt (Lady of the Lake) and Drew Bradford, Trevor Cruse, Siri Hafso, Lauren Long, Janissa Saracino, Emmanuel Young and Jenny Henkel in the ensemble. Α
“Spamalot” runs at the Cygnet from June 27 through August 5. Tickets and information can be found at cygnettheatre.com.