I’ve heard that blogs are a place where people reveal their innermost dark secrets, so here’s mine: I really, really dislike most musicals. “But Chris,” I hear you ask, “how can you say that? You’ve appeared in dozens of musicals at the Playhouse and elsewhere!” It’s true that I’ve done a lot of musicals, but the reason for that is purely selfish…people seem to think I can sing, and so directors are always asking me to be in musicals. That means I pretty much don’t have to worry about auditions. I’d much rather be asked to do a show and know I have a part waiting for me than walk into an audition cold, and have to fight for a part. In addition, I look a bit like Nathan Lane, and as a result have cornered the market on any local productions that Nathan Lane has starred in.
But still, I’d rather chew my own ears off than go to see most musicals. Some affect me worse than others. “The Sound of Music,” for example, is at the bottom of my list. If I ever hear another rendition of “The Lonely Goatherd,” I’m going to stomp up on the stage and turn the entire Von Trapp family in to the Nazis myself! In addition, the sound of tap shoes creates a shudder up my spine that most other people only get from nails on a chalkboard.
So why am I so excited to be doing “Spamalot?” Well, the obvious reason is that I’ve been a Monty Python fan ever since junior high (when I realized that the animated bits would sometimes show female nudity). By the time I reached high school, I had much of “The Holy Grail” memorized, as well as a number of the sketches from the TV show. When “The Life of Brian” was released, I was one of the first people in line at the theater for it, at least in Superior. It was only after waiting around for a bit that I found out that I had to go to Duluth to see it.
But there’s an even more important reason that I’m excited to be doing “Spamalot.” In addition to being based on “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Spamalot” is also a musical that pokes fun of other musicals! I remember that when I saw “Spamalot” in London, I was worried that I might not like it as a musical. However, as soon as I saw the Lady of the Lake and Galahad make fun of all Andrew Lloyd Weber duets with “The Song that Goes Like This,” I was hooked. I won’t give away any more spoilers, but I have to say that the parts of the show that make fun of over-the-top Broadway and Las Vegas productions are some of my favorite bits.
When the Playhouse announced that it would be producing “Spamalot,” I was (needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway) thrilled! So thrilled, in fact, that I reneged on the vow that I had made only six months earlier to never do another musical again. I still had some fears though: there are a lot of dance numbers in the show and I’ve never been very good at dancing. (In fact, I’ve volunteered to choreograph shows in the past just to make sure the dance steps were ones that I could do.) “Spamalot” also makes the cast go through an ungodly amount of costume changes, and now that I’m of “a certain age,” I worried that I might not have the stamina to get through it.
So I was excited, grateful and relieved to receive the part of Arthur. Though Arthur is what’s traditionally called “the lead,” in many ways, it’s the easiest part in the show. Arthur gets to sit out most of the dance numbers, and he has hardly any costume changes. In addition, probably half of his lines are straight out of the movie, so I’d memorized them years ago!
Also, I’m not feeling nearly as exhausted at the end of the rehearsal process as I thought I’d be. I think a lot of that has to do with the cast and crew, who are some of the most fun people I’ve ever done a show with. When you wake up every morning saying, “I wonder who’s going to make me laugh inappropriately tonight,” it’s not hard to be motivated to go to rehearsal.
Still, it hasn’t been all fun and games. Okay, it’s been mostly fun and games, but there have been a few learning experiences along the way. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s possible to injure yourself just by galloping across a stage. I’ve learned that when a costume is held together by magnets, it’s a bad idea to walk up a metal staircase. (Fortunately, I learned that by observing somebody else’s misfortune.) I’ve learned to try to ignore the fact that some of the helmets in the show are buckets…if you realize your fellow actor has a bucket on his head, you start sniggering uncontrollably.
And there are other things I’m still learning. I’m learning which parts of my face are the best ones to attach a fake beard to, so it doesn’t come loose. I’m learning to get out of the way as my fellow actors and actresses go through their bazillion costume changes. I’m constantly learning what a lousy dancer I am. (Even though I already knew my dancing was sub-par, each day brings a new revelation.)
Mostly though, I’m continually being reminded of how much fun this all is, and how lucky I am to be part of such a talented and hilarious group of people. If every musical was this much fun, I could almost get over my dislike of them!
Spamalot opens this Thursday at 7:30pm. If you’re attending opening night, don’t forget to come starting at 6:30pm for our Cook-a-lot SPAM-Off to try some fabulous SPAM creations by local restaurants Pizza Luce, Lake Avenue, Black Water, and Tycoons. Spamalot runs September 12-29, Wednesday-Sundays. Call in (218-733-7555) or click below to get your tickets now!